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The touchy subject with Ellington

Posted by Darren Urban on November 8, 2013 – 1:24 pm

This is what we know about the Cardinals’ burgeoning running game and their running back situation:

1) Coach Bruce Arians has said he would like to get rookie running back Andre Ellington around 20 touches a game. He had 17 in his most recent game against Atlanta — 15 carries, two receptions — and Arians said the uptick, in his mind, might be best suited as a receiver to get Ellington into space.

2) Veteran Rashard Mendenhall is not only back practicing, but he will start Sunday, Arians said Friday (much to the chagrin of those out there who want it to be Ellington).

3) The two are going to split time. And Ellington isn’t the only dynamic rookie in such a situation. The Bengals are doing the same, for the same reasons, with vet BenJarvus Green-Ellis and newcomer Giovani Bernard.

Are 20 touches enough for Ellington? Well, thanks to some research by my new co-worker Kyle Odegard (you’ve seen his work here and here and here), if the Cards get Ellington 20 touches, that’s right around the mark many of the top backs get. Here are some interesting numbers:

Player Team Touches per game
Eddie Lacy G.B. 24.2*
Jamaal Charles K.C. 24.1
Arian Foster HOU 23.2**
Matt Forte CHI 22.5
LeSean McCoy PHI 21.9
Adrian Peterson MIN 21.9
Reggie Bush DET 21.9
Marshawn Lynch SEA 20.7
Chris Johnson TEN 19.5
Frank Gore SF 19.3
Alfred Morris WASH 18.0
DeAngelo Williams CAR 17.8
Ryan Mathews SD 17.3
Fred Jackson BUF 16.1
Stevan Ridley NE 15.9

* – Leaves out Sept. 15 game Lacy left due to injury. ** — Leaves out past two games shortened due to injury

Obviously Ellington’s touch average is well below that, but I think the Cards know they need to commit to Ellington more the rest of the season. Even the ultimate “workhorse” back, Adrian Peterson, isn’t getting the ball significantly more. Yes, a guy like Jamaal Charles is getting 24 touches — and he is listed at the exact same 5-11, 199 as Ellington — and perhaps Ellington will get to that point. But Charles wasn’t getting the ball that much as a rookie, and there is probably a reason for that.

I, like many, am anxious to see the post-154-yards-for-Ellington workload now that Mendenhall is back. It’ll be one of the top things to watch Sunday.


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Posted in Blog | 26 Comments »


26 Responses to “The touchy subject with Ellington”

  1. By D on Nov 8, 2013 | Reply

    Wonder how many RB’s the Cards keep next year…Mendahall wont be back, Williams wont be back, Smith is 50/50 maybe back because of special teams…to me I would look for another RB in round 6 this spring…maybe a A. Blue from LSU….to go with our two rookie rb’s this year….

  2. By Art Kramer on Nov 8, 2013 | Reply

    Urban is absolutely right.

    Guys like Ellington and Gio are best when their touches are limited. I’m sure everyone saw that second TD run Gio made last Thursday. He only can do that because he was fresh and healthy in the 2nd half while the defense was more tired and worn out.

    Let a guy like Mendenhall or Stepfan bang it inside 15 times a game, and use Ellington’s speed and quicks more intelligently — in space on runs like tosses and sweeps, and passes out of the backfield and from the slot.

  3. By LadyBird04 on Nov 8, 2013 | Reply

    While I understand Ellington only geting limited touches, I have been sorely disappointed in Mendenhall’s production. I would prefer having Stephan Taylor and Mendenhall in there as our primary backs. Of course, I’m not being paid the big bucks to make these decisions, but as a fan/observer Mendenhall is not the answer – not for next year, and not for now either.

  4. By Chuck 1 on Nov 8, 2013 | Reply

    LadyBird04,

    Did you mean “I would prefer Stephan Taylor and ELLINGTON in there as our primary backs?”

    If you are “sorely disappointed in Mendenhall’s production”, why would you want him in there as one of the primary backs?

  5. By LadyBird04 on Nov 8, 2013 | Reply

    Chuck
    Thank you for catching my obvious mis-type….

    Yes, I would much prefer Taylor and Ellington. (I checked that twice….)

    Mendenhall just doesn’t seem to have it. Maybe seeing how well Ellington did last week gave him a wake up call but I doubt he is a long term answer.

  6. By Hugh Jardon on Nov 9, 2013 | Reply

    Running backs don’t matter much until you have a decent offensive line.

  7. By clssylssy on Nov 9, 2013 | Reply

    I’m beginning to think that BA says a lot of things to the press to “stir the pot”. When reading the headlines on PFT that “Arians says Ellington will only get 20 ONLY 20 touches”, my first reaction was that was a Hell of a thing to advertise, when he is the best part of our game right now, then realized that was still more touches than he had last game, and with Mendenhall back, he must be working out some special packages for this Houston game. I can see Mendenhall’s value as a battering ram to wear down a defense, and despite all the criticism, I feel that he has been an upgrade over RBs of past years and has played an important role. The repeated attempts to gain yards up the center are at the direction of the play caller, so when this happens I have to think BA is wanting something less obvious to be occurring. Certainly, Stefan Taylor has been a great addition who gives our run game promise for the future and he reminds me a lot of Ed Reed in his prime. I guess I’m just so happy to have a run game that is winning us games that I’ll leave the scheme design to the guy who’s getting paid for his expertise and just be content with …WHATEVER GETS IT DONE! GOOD LUCK CARDS!

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