The Arizona Cardinals rookie running back Andre Ellington has been one of the happier surprises of 2013 season to this point. As a 6th round pick, expectations were no higher than a decent backup for the 5’9 200 pounder out of Clemson. By superseding that conventional backup role, Ellington has quickly made himself a vital device to Arizona’s success.
Injuries and shuffling of personnel could have easily destroyed the Cardinals season before it even began. But the emergence of Ellington has helped keep them afloat. He’s dazzled head coach Bruce Arians so much that he’s designated 20 touches for Ellington for their Week 10 showdown against the Houston Texans. Although veteran Rashard Mendenhall is still the starter in title, Ellington is who the Texans will be preparing for most rigorously.
The worry for Ellington is that he can’t withstand the physical torment that comes with 20 touches in a game. There’s a reason we rarely see comparatively small guys running between the tackles in this league, it’s simply too violent. Lucky for Ellington, he’s as talented as a slot receiver and even more dangerous in open space. Expect to see designed plays enabling Ellington to showoff his offensive prowess.
Sitting at 4-4 and coming off a bye week, the Cardinals are remarkably in good standings for the NFC wild card race. They hold tiebreaker victories over other wild card candidates like the Lions and Panthers. By entrusting Ellington with 20 touches in their upcoming game, he’s putting much of their playoff hopes on the shoulders of a rookie with a small sample size. From what we’ve seen, however, Ellington seems worth the gamble.