Andre Ellington misunderstood the question a bit, but his answer still summed up his feelings on the subject of how much work he could handle in a game.
“Until the clock says zero in the fourth quarter,” Ellington said.
After the rookie’s 154-yard rushing effort on just 15 carries against the Falcons, Ellington’s use has been one of the biggest topics surrounding this team. Does he get the ball enough? Should it be more? What exactly is the concern? What does it mean going forward?
When it comes to football (and I’m talking the football on the field now; Anyone gritting their teeth about Ellington’s use because of fantasy football reasons can leave now), both sides have an argument. I get those wondering why Ellington isn’t the lead back, especially over a veteran like Rashard Mendenhall whose production has dropped as the season has gone. Coach Bruce Arians mentioned Mendenhall’s return to the rotation was likely when Mendenhall was “100 percent” healthy. Here’s the thing: When would that be? Mendenhall has been missing some practice all the way back into training camp. He hasn’t been 100 percent healthy for a long time and now it seems that his bad toe was giving him much more trouble that was being let on. We could be seeing Ellington and Stepfan Taylor for a while.
This isn’t to say Mendenhall would be better than Ellington, but it’s a factor. And again, Mendenhall is just part of the equation. The coaching staff — and GM Steve Keim — have said repeatedly they don’t want Ellington beat up. This isn’t about the one blow that takes out a knee or a major injury. But if you think Ellington has the stuff (which he does) to take it 80 yards for a touchdown on any given play, you want to make sure he keeps that dynamic in his arsenal. If he gets 25 touches, maybe that ability isn’t quite there in the fourth quarter of a rough game.
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said that on a personal level, he could see Ellington working more. He noted that strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott — who once worked for the Jets — said that Ellington and Hall of Fame workhorse back Curtis Martin were similar in stature. That’s true to a point (Ellington is 5-foot-11, 199, and Martin is listed as 5-11, 210), although when I look at pictures of Martin, he looks a bit more thick than Ellington to me.
Ellington had a season-high 17 touches against the Falcons (he added two catches.) “I wouldn’t mind the touches going up to 20 but I’d like to see it in the pass receiving,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He doesn’t has to stay between the tackles for him to get touches. I’d like to see him get them in space.”
That may end up being the compromise. Arians keeps saying he wants to get Ellington about 35 snaps and now, about 15-20 touches. Ellington does generally do a good job avoiding big hits and slipping massive contact. I’m sure the Cardinals aren’t going to forget to use what has been their best offensive weapon as the season goes on, even if Mendenhall returns. The one certainty is this: No matter what Ellington does, he’s not going to be a back used almost all the time. Even the backs who are used all the time aren’t anymore (check Adrian Peterson’s touches of late).
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Harold Goodwin, Rashard Mendenhall, Stepfan Taylor
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