Rookie running back Andre Ellington scores on a 36-yard touchdown catch against the Lions last weekend.
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin didn't hesitate when considering if it was surprising rookie sixth-round draft pick Andre Ellington has managed to be so productive so quickly in his NFL career.
"You saw his college film? Whew. He's pretty special," Goodwin said. "I'm glad he's on my team."
In his second game as a pro – after nearly gaining some hero status in the opener had it not been for a miscommunication between he and quarterback Carson Palmer on a late pass – Ellington impressed in just 18 offensive snaps. He had a 36-yard touchdown catch, he had 20 yards rushing on four carries and he seemed to take a slight edge in pivotal snaps over backup Alfonso Smith.
That could mean a lot Sunday in New Orleans. Starter Rashard Mendenhall missed a second straight day of practice
with a toe injury, the extent of which remains a mystery. Coach Bruce Arians has not met with the media since Mendenhall's injury became public – Arians talks again Friday after practice – and Goodwin declined to speak on the subject.
Goodwin did emphasize how much the coaches believe in the Cards' running back depth, however, and that's in part because of Ellington.
"That's just the expectation I have for myself," Ellington said. "I put in the work. I deserve to be credited at the end of the day. It's paying off right now."
Ellington was the second of two sixth-round picks (retired receiver Ryan Swope was the first). He was drafted behind fellow rookie Stepfan Taylor and Ryan Williams was already on the roster, as well as Smith. But he didn't doubt himself.
"I got drafted a lot later than I was supposed to, but it happened, I pulled a hamstring (in training) and it was one of those deals you can't control," Ellington said. "It's one of those deals, I use it as motivation. I just worked every day in camp to impress the coaches, showed them my ability, and now I am out there playing."
What would happen if Mendenhall couldn't play is an unknown. Williams has been inactive both games so far. Ellington and Smith (17 snaps) got equal time against the Lions. Ellington said the non-Mendenhall backs just plan to remain ready.
"We all knew coming in to the season Rashard was the starter, but the rest of us weren't sure what our role was going to be," he said. "Once we found out they were going to keep all of us, that's when we knew Coach B.A. had a plan in mind."
FITZGERALD PLAYS COY WITH HAMSTRING, TALKS EDUCATION
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, told there was a school of thought he should sit out the Saints game just to have his problem hamstring heal once and for all, said "Never been to that school before."
Fitzgerald, who did not practice Thursday again because of his bad leg, remains reluctant to get into too much detail. "Feel great" and "Did everything" were Fitzgerald's responses to questions about his status. He added he is expecting to play Sunday, which has been what everyone has been saying.
The Cardinals' injury list didn't change much overall Thursday. Fitzgerald, Mendenhall and linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) remained sidelined. Tight end Rob Housler (ankle) was still limited, but the belief is that he will play Sunday. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (biceps) was upgraded to full practice.
For the Saints, there was only one change from Wednesday, with defensive end Glenn Foster (ankle) upgrade from out to limited at practice.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was not happy with his pass rush after the opening game against the Rams. The Cardinals got just one sack in the second game against Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, but Bowles was encouraged by the progress of that part of his unit.
"We got around the quarterback a lot, made him back off," Bowles said. "He couldn't step up and throw in the second half, which was a good thing."
Interestingly, the Cardinals' coaching staff credited the defense with one less quarterback pressure against Detroit compared to St. Louis (7 to 6) and one less QB hit (3 to 2) after their video review.