When the Cardinals drafted Andre Ellington in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft, Ellington was projected to be a special teams guy who could contribute minimally to the offense, and eventually turn into a good NFL third down running back. So far, five games into his NFL career, Ellington has been much more than that.
Outside of maybe third rounder Tyrann Mathieu, Ellington has been the Cardinals rookie with the most impact thus far while playing limited snaps in the young 2013 season, accumulating 120 yards rushing on just 18 carries (a 6.5 yard average), while also totaling 144 yards receiving on 13 catches (11.1 yards per reception) adding in a touchdown in week two against Detroit.
When you combine Ellington’s early impact with the recent struggles of starting running back Rashard Mendenhall, some are calling for Ellington to receive more of the bulk of the load at the running back position. Bruce Arians addressed those comments today at his Monday press conference saying:
“He (Ellington) has continued to progress in the right direction so you continue adding things to it, but you have to be careful with rookies that you don’t overload and ask them to get out of their comfort zone.”
Arians also added this when speaking about Ellington after the game:
“I think his role as a future player is a 30 snap player as a receiver and a runner, I don’t think his body type is going to be the lead dog runner.”
Clearly, Arians feels that Ellington is better used as a role player, and I agree with Arians comments. Ellington’s snaps have increased in every game as the Cardinals have progressed through this season. But while Ellington has had a great start to his rookie year and has shown game-breaking ability, I don’t think he is ready to carry the load just yet. Part of Ellington’s success has been the coaching staff’s ability to put him in good positions to succeed. They are getting Ellington out in space and allowing him to use his speed and quickness. Ellington is not a back that you can give the ball and expect to run between the tackles. He just does not have that body type.
With Mendenhall’s struggles I think maybe we see more of fellow rookie Stepfan Taylor, or maybe even (dare I say) Ryan Williams. But I think Andre Ellington is in the perfect spot right where he is, a weapon Bruce Arians can go to and get in space for a big play.