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|
* – 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.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Rashard Mendenhall, run game
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