The rookie running back looked very good with limited touches, and even with the talent easy to see – and the fans clamoring for more – Bruce Arians was simply not going to increase the back’s workload too far, too fast. Eventually, in 2013, Andre Ellington was allowed to do more.
David Johnson, the Cardinals’ current rookie running back, has been spectacular in his brief and sheltered NFL career. In two games – and with only nine touches – Johnson has three touchdowns, including a franchise-record 108-yard kickoff return and a 55-yard
reception. The small sample size has produced 8.4 yards a carry, and 75.5 yards per kickoff return.
But like Ellington – and Arians acknowledged his handling of Johnson and Ellington is “very similar” – Johnson’s role will likely continue to be limited. In 2013, Ellington played behind veteran Rashard Mendenhall. In 2015, Johnson is behind veteran Chris Johnson – and when Ellington returns from his knee injury, he too will jump ahead of the rookie.
None of this is a surprise.
“I definitely talked to Andre a lot about what he did his rookie year,” David Johnson said. “He said the same thing: Be patient and it will come to me. B.A. knows exactly what he wants out of the team.”
Arians said last week he wants his rookies to earn their playing time. Then someone like David Johnson comes up with multiple explosive plays, and it seems counterintuitive to leave such ability on the bench, the story said. The story went on to say the reasoning isn’t about rookie versus veteran, necessarily. It’s a very real concern that too much responsibility would slow Johnson down – especially after Johnson missed a chunk of training camp with a hamstring injury. Pass protection was specifically mentioned, and always seems to come up with rookie RBs. Like Johnson, fantasy owners will have to be patient, too.
Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers on RB Andre Ellington: Last year, the Cardinals limited how much they gave Andre Ellington the ball. They weren't sure the 5-9, 199-pound rookie could take a pounding. But he was more durable than they thought and as explosive as they expected. With the retirement of Rashard Mendenhall, Ellington becomes the featured back. Arians said he would like to get Ellington the ball 25 times a game. That's a bit exaggerated, but you get the idea. Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer are the main backups.
Rashad Mendenhall retired, and the Cardinals didn’t do much of anything at RB in free agency (outside of signing Jonathan Dwyer), so the path is clear for Ellington to become a feature back. HC Bruce Arians says he wants to build the offense around the diminutive RB, but that they’ll be careful not to overwork him, implying that they may limit his short-yardage work. He was the #25 RB in 2013 on 10.4 touches per game, but averaged 12.4 touches in his last 11 games. In that span, he averaged 9.3 FP, which are low-end RB2 numbers. Arians’ offenses don’t utilize the running back heavily in the passing game, but with the way he has been gushing about Ellington’s skill set, that may change. Ellington averaged 0.771 fantasy points per touch in 2013, so if he can maintain that production at a 15-touch workload, he’s looking at an average of 11.6 FP per game. Those are high-end RB2 numbers.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 10:26am
The sudden retirement of last year’s starting running back, Rashard Mendenhall, didn’t throw the Cards’ running game into a brief bout of turmoil. Andre Ellington was calmly promoted to the starter while Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer, who was signed in the offseason, were given the chance to battle for the second and third running back spots.
The signing of Robert Hughes has been hailed internally, and it also has given the Cardinals a likely steady back at the fourth spot who can play running back, fullback and tight end, according to Arians.
“It’s a good battle going on,” Arians said. “There’s a ton of talent with Stef and Jonathan. Robert Hughes is an outstanding player.”
Arians made headlines early in the offseason when he said he’d like to give Ellington 25 to 30 carries per game. While many feel that's still too much for a back his size, it at least opens the door that he'll make a fantasy impression this season with not a lot of competition. Ellington led all eligible rushers with 5.53 yards per carry. We rank Ellington 12th among RBs on our PPR list and he's got an ADP of the early 4th round.
Mendenhall's retirement is somewhat surprising. If the Cardinals do not sign or draft another legitimate running back, then Andre Ellington's stock may be out of control by the time 2014 fantasy drafts are in full swing. Ellington is probably in the same boat as Giovani Bernard — considered “too small” to be an every-down workhorse. He was the #25 RB in 2013 on 10.4 touches per game, but averaged 12.4 touches in his last 11 games. In that span, he averaged 9.3 FP, which are low-end RB2 numbers. It's a good sign that GM Steve Keim confirmed that Ellington will get more work in 2014 -- expect around 15 touches per game, though a bigger workload is possible.
Ellington should see a bump in touches if the Cardinals don’t re-sign Rashard Mendenhall or bring in another established RB via free agency. Ellington is probably in the same boat as Giovani Bernard — considered “too small” to be an every-down workhorse. He was the #25 RB in 2013 on 10.4 touches per game, but averaged 12.4 touches in his last 11 games. In that span, he averaged 9.3 FP, which are low-end RB2 numbers. It's a good sign that Keim confirmed that Ellington will get more work in 2014 -- expect 12-15 touches per game.
Friday, December 27, 2013, 6:31pm
Thursday, December 26, 2013, 6:22pm
Friday, December 20, 2013, 6:36pm
Cardinals RB Rashard Mendenhall (finger, probable) took full practice reps on Friday after being limited earlier in the week and is probable for Week 16. Mendy will be fine for a bad matchup with the Cardinals.
Sunday, December 1, 2013, 9:05pm
Cards HC Bruce Arians said RB Andre Ellington was never close to playing with knee injury. Is going to be careful with a young player.
Friday, November 29, 2013, 5:59pm
Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (knee, questionable) missed practice Friday after taking limited reps Thursday and is questionable for Week 13. It sounds as if Ellington is in danger of missing Sunday's game against the Eagles. Rashard Mendenhall would get a big bump if Ellington can't play. The Cardinals play in the early round of games on Sunday.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 9:31am
“Oh yeah,” Arians said. “There's no doubt.”
Rookie RB Andre Ellington had 15 touches Sunday - and the Cardinals want to get him about 20 a game. Ellington is clearly the most skilled back of the two, and more productive. But the Cards want to limit his work due to his size, so Ellington's fantasy upside appears capped thanks to Mendy.
Friday, November 8, 2013, 6:22pm
Cardinals RB Rashard Mendenhall (toe, probable) took full practice reps on Friday after being limited earlier in the week and is probable for Week 10. Mendenhall is expected to return this week, but may lose some touches to the far more productive Andre Ellington. HC Bruce Arians said that he'd like to get Ellington around 20 touches, with an increased role in the passing game. Mendenhall is expected to start, however.
Thursday, November 7, 2013, 6:20pm
Cardinals HC Bruce Arians said he’d like to increase Andre Ellington’s touches, although that might come through pass receptions to get Ellington in space. OC Harold Goodwin said he personally thinks Ellington is smart enough to be able to handle a lot of carries, but reiterated he doesn’t want Ellington to get beat up.
Duh. On the season, Ellington is averaging 7.74 YPC compared to Rashard Mendenhall's 3.05 YPC. Due to size/durability concerns, Ellington can't completely take over the feature back role, but he should be seeing more touches than Mendenhall on a weekly basis.
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