Again, getting touchy with Ellington

Posted by Darren Urban on May 28, 2014 – 9:59 am

It seems like once Andre Ellington started playing at the beginning of last season, the amount of touches he was getting/would get/could get on a game-by-game basis was a constant theme. That hasn’t changed. And it came up again when Bruce Arians said he’d like to get Ellington 25 to 30 touches a game.

In a vacuum, a bold statement. But there are reasons to analyze this, not the least of which is that it is May and things most certainly can change by the time the season starts. (Don’t forget that at some point last offseason, the Cardinals were going to a) have Drew Stanton as a starting QB, b) use Kevin Minter as a starting linebacker with Daryl Washington, c) employ Levi Brown all year at left tackle and d) have a pretty limited role for Ellington.)

— Arians made it clear that his guesstimation for Ellington touches would depend on the number of passes Ellington would catch. Ellington’s use as a receiver is a big deal for this team going forward (and should probably be factored in when it comes to where the team stands with their receiving corps.) The Cardinals love Ellington’s pass-catching ability, they love the idea of getting him the ball in space, and they were pleasantly surprised with how effective he could be not only running routes (which he had never really done) but also catching the ball in traffic.

I’d think Arians believes a significant amount of those Ellington touches come in the passing game. And let’s face it, game-to-game, it’s difficult to know exactly how many receptions a guy might make.

— These days, no one gets 25 touches a game, much less 30. There is no bigger workhorse running back than the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. He averaged 22 touches last season. Even in his 2,000-yard rushing season of 2012, Peterson didn’t even get to 25 touches a game (24.3). Last year, Philly’s LeSean McCoy topped the league with 22.9 touches a game. Chicago’s Matt Forte was at 22.7. And it felt like McCoy got the ball all the time.

People like to compare Ellington’s size to Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles. Charles averaged 21.9 touches a game last season.

— Speaking of size, Ellington was officially listed at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds last year. He figures to put on some muscle, but I keep thinking back to what Arians said last year when people kept wondering why Ellington didn’t touch the ball more often. You don’t want too much of the offense to be on Ellington’s shoulders, the coach reasoned, because if he did get hurt, where does that leave you? (Ellington did fear he had torn knee ligaments during the Cards’ Thanksgiving practice last year, but it turned out to only be a sprain.)

“My goal is to get out there and not take those big hits, to get down when I’m supposed to or not get hit at all,” Ellington said. “But it’s football. You’re going to get tackled. … I just have to be in the best shape so I can be full speed on every play.”

Over Ellington’s last eight appearances last season, he averaged 13.6 touches a game. He had a season-high 17 touches in a game twice. He did not have more than 15 carries in a game. It will be interesting to see how his use morphs this season, and whether or not Ellington really does hover around a 25-touch-per-game average.




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28 Responses to “Again, getting touchy with Ellington”

  1. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    Glad you addressed this question, Arians’ comments stuck out. Would only offer that BA seemed to say he would “like to get him” 25 touches, not that he could, huh.

  2. By ryan on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    GO ANDRE GO! the cards have struggled with rb’s for so many years with the exception of a few glimpses of hope now and again but nothing like what Andre showed last year. here’s to health and progression! GO CARDS!!

  3. By erik on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    I think 20 touches is the magic number. 35 is pretty much impossible. But he should be touching the ball as much as Charles and McCoy and if he doesn’t there will certainly be some raised eyebrows.

  4. By clssylssy on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    I think a lot of fans are “all or none” thinkers and fail to recognize that the use of rotational backs last season was largely responsible for the success of our running game. While many fans constantly were critical of Rashard Mendenhall they failed to recognize that he was our “battering ram” and created many opportunities for our other backs like Ellington and Taylor to get the plays and yardage they did. Last season BA was all about not exposing Ellington too much at the risk of injury; the more exposure the higher the risk. I feel this was utilizing our assets wisely. Andre is not Marshawn Lynch.
    It seems that Coach BA gets high on a player and his enthusiasm for their athleticism and skillsets run away ,which has a tendency to hurt the player stats because they are so scattered, which is kinda what we saw with PP. I’m not saying that using these players as hybrids isn’t a bad thing for the team and certainly throws our opponents off, but at the end of the year when the worth of a player is measured by stats, it’s not an accurate picture and doesn’t really do the player justice.
    Jamal Charles was being used as an every down back and when he got injured, KC’s offense suffered. I would hate to see the same thing happen to the Cards.
    With the strong receiving corp the Cards have and the improved offense, I think the trend will be a more accelerated passing game which I find gets boring. A good balanced offense, with a good ole ground and pound run game as the meat and potatoes seasoned with a spicey aerial show is a win-win for the fans and players alike as it mixes things up and conserves player energy and risk. With all the talent and so many weapons at hand, Coach BA should be like a kid on Christmas morning, without the pressure of having to make any one player the team “workhorse”. Counting down the days to preseason to see how this all comes together!

  5. By jeffgollin on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    BA’s comment a couple of days ago that we’d be lining up in 2-back sets more often suggests that we’ll pair Ellington with another RB deep and then have the option of putting him in motion and lining him out wide or in the slot as a 3rd or 4th WR. This figures to give Arians considerable X & O flexibility in the way he deploys and makes use of Ellington.

  6. By Eric G on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    After watching Ellington in the preseason last year, he was my deep sleeper for FF, and by the end of the year he paid off as he helped me win. He’s no secret anymore and I look forward to seeing what he can help the offense do this year.

  7. By Dynosoar on May 28, 2014 | Reply


    I personally like to see a good passing game. I love to see a running back find a hole or open space. I don’t enjoy watching a running back hit a wall churning the turf and get nowhere. But hey, that’s me.

    I liked the thoughts on Jamal and staying away from a “workhorse”

    Personally, I think we see a lot of passing and with the threat of Ellington and others in the backfield, this is going to be one fun season to be a Cardinals fan. Welcome future bandwagon fans, buy lots of Cardinals merchandise to fund our team and stick around for a few season and then join us lifetimers.

  8. By Big Ken on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    Yeah I think he’s about the same size as Zack Bauman. Gonna get interesting..

  9. By clssylssy on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    Oh, I quite agree that a strong aerial capability is exciting and adds extra spice to the gumbo however, it also tends to shorten time of possession and give our opponents more opportunity. When Kurt was QB we didn’t really have much of a running game which gave us less choices but nonetheless provided some unforgettable cardiac moments! Some of those catches by Fitz seemed physically impossible by a mere mortal and to this day give me a chill. Last season our game was more balanced and as a result we were able to not only hold our own against some monsters but wear them down and emerge victorious. This year we’re stronger and the best is yet to come!

  10. By carlo milano on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    How much he is listed Ellington?
    I heard arians said he gained 10 lb.
    Honestly he looks the same on photos

  11. By Darren Urban on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    Carlo —

    RE: Weight

    As I mentioned in the post, 199.

  12. By David on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    Full speed every time bro
    You got this.

  13. By carlo milano on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    I know last year was listed 199,but he doesnt look he gained weight like arians mentioned few weeks ago

  14. By Darren Urban on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    Carlo —

    RE: Weight

    They have not changed his weight on the roster as of yet.

  15. By Mike G on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    Hey Darren–Hope all is well! I think Ellington will continue to get between 15-20 touches a game on average. I think Dwyer will pitch in as well–but I think the Card’s will want Taylor to have more of a role in the running game in the coming season. If the Cards can develop Taylor into a nice runner it will only add another weapon for the offense! Darren–Do you think Taylor can somewhat fill Mendenhall’s shoes and be productive in the running game????

  16. By Darren Urban on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    Mike G —

    RE: RBs

    We will see. That’s the hope. Nothing is set.

  17. By Scott H on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    Looking forward to seeing more of Ellington this season BUT also kinda excited about Dwyer, too. Hoping they can be a nice tandem because as we saw against Seattle last year, this team can hang with ANYONE when they can keep the offense balanced. And with a defense like ours, we should be in every game and be VERY capable of keeping the running game going late in games. THAT is a winning formula.

  18. By cardsalltheway on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    How about nobody get too touchy during OTA’s like the Cowboy new OL draft pick did with Lee, their middle linebacker. And, Jonathan Cooper doesn’t need to run down field 20 yards and throw his body around in preseason to show us he can make a block.

  19. By br on May 28, 2014 | Reply

    Watching Taylor at Stanford he could run btwn the tackles or burst outside I think he can take over for Mendenhall, I do realize this isnt the PAC-12 and Taylor is very green but the more reps he gets in camp and preseason the better he will be when the games start to count. As well it seemed to me the more touches ST would get in a game the better he seemed to get (seemed he had an endless motor, and got better and stronger with each carry!) I think Taylor and Dwyer are more of the running workhorse and Ellington a great mix it up all purpose workhorse mixing them all in together will keep opposing defenses on their heels! With all that said, I cant see Ellington getting that many touches (my guess mor like 16-18 per) with all our other weapons at WR/TE/and even RB because of there different running styles, AP & JC were workhorses for their teams out of necessity and they have been workhorses for most of there careers and they didnt even get 25-30 touches. Then again, I could be wrong, I can think of once or twice in my life where I was wrong! LOL!

  20. By JohnnyBluenose on May 29, 2014 | Reply

    Arians sometimes likes to blow smoke… when he implied at the draft that the Cardinals would not even consider drafting a quarterback. No question, Ellington made an impact last year and we all hope he can stay healthy and play well again this year and for many years. But we have a lot of playmakers on offense. If Palmer can stay healthy our passing game will be better this year than last year which will mean more touches (as opposed to targets) for Fitz and Floyd and you would expect Ginn and the Browns to get a few as well. Maybe even a tight end or two. And, when we are up a couple of touchdowns (or more) by the end of the third quarter we may not see much more of Ellington as Taylor and Dwyer are running out the clock behind our formidable offensive line. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  21. By Marlin on May 29, 2014 | Reply

    The more I look at our roster………the better it looks. We have a very good team.

  22. By ored on May 29, 2014 | Reply

    just remember that fans of other teams also think that way,i’m sure rams fans like their chances,but with what we accomplished last year i have to agree,especially adding to an already stout defense.

  23. By Dr. G. on May 30, 2014 | Reply

    I mentioned before that this is the first time as the permanent HC for Arians. Sometimes his enthusiasm in the moment derails his logic. He is a good coach, but he is not quick on his feet in front of the pro reporters who have given thought to their questions. Either BA needs to anticipate his answers ahead of time, or say something like – “I’ll get back to you on that one.” He needs a press coach! Darren, you could fill this role…

    As for Ellington, his performance speaks loudly. But the Cards averaged about 64 Offensive plays per game in 2013. Anyone in their right coaching mind knows that Fitz and Floyd should be involved in the lion’s share of the offense. We have TE’s for a few plays, and other backs as well.

    If Ells gets half the plays, our team will not fair well… Again, I take BA with many grains of salt now….e.g., We don’t need a QB; I like the ones we have…or We don’t need a TE for offense….plus all the things mentioned in Darrens’s article. Quote: I’m a good liar. Unquote.. I just think BA wants to be cute and friendly…and doesn’t hear some of what he says. His tactic is to be cleverly deceptive, but comes across as needing some math classes…. Still love the guy… He is best with the players…That’s his wheelhouse…. Later…

  24. By eric on May 31, 2014 | Reply

    He WILL have an awesome year! Gonna rush for more than 1,000 yards…… Count on it.

  25. By William Barry on May 31, 2014 | Reply

    I really like dwyer as one of our RB’s, he is larger, and more powerful, and I’d like to see Taylor get more involved, along with our TE’s. We have a really good balanced offensive….lets put it all together to win the division this year!!!!

  26. By Robert Whorton on May 31, 2014 | Reply

    Jamaal Charles is a good comparison..but Jamaal Charles is 4 inches taller.

    A better comparison is Ray Rice who weighed 5 pounds less at the combine and is almost exactly the same height as Ellington.

    Arians claims Ellington has already packed on an additional 10 pounds of muscle. If that’s true then he’s already half way to Ray Rice’s playing weight.

    The best is yet to come. When comparing to Jamaal Charles, it should be noted that he had a lot of really bad coaches until Andy Reid came along and they all said the same exact things being espoused by critics about Ellington now..

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