On the Arizona Cardinals’ depth chart going into Sunday’s home opener against the Detroit Lions, rookie running back Andre Ellington and Ryan Williams were listed as “other” behind Rashard Mendenhall, Alfonso Smith and Stepfan Taylor.
For the 5-foot-9 Ellington, the distinction doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
The only real noteworthy play from his NFL debut last Sunday came on a miscommunication between he and quarterback Carson Palmer during a critical third down situation in the fourth quarter of the team’s 27-24 loss to the Rams.
So color the Lions’ defense surprised that in Sunday’s contest, it was Ellington, the tailback who played in only eight of Arizona’s 71 snaps last week, that ignited a rather sluggish offense.
The sixth-round pick out of Clemson had two catches for a team-high 42 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter on a play similar to the one run during his communication gaffe with Palmer in St. Louis.
“My first touchdown, I’m never going to forget that one,” said Ellington. “I’m just thankful coach called on me in that time and that I made a play.”
Ellington’s first career score was also the Cardinals’ first passing touchdown at home since Week 4 of the 2012 season.
“We kind of snuck one on them at the time,” said Ellington. “It was a great call by Coach Bruce Arians. A perfect call actually and it worked to perfection.”
While the rookie’s big catch brought some life to the offense in the first half, he wasn’t done there.
With a little less than five minutes to play, the Cardinals trailed 21-19 but had the ball at their own 39-yard line.
On the first play of the drive, Ellington took a carry and bounced it out to the right of the line. Sixteen yards later, the “other” back found himself inside the Lions’ 45-yard line. Seven plays after Ellington’s long dash, fellow running back Rashard Mendenhall plowed his way into the end zone for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
“My goal is to do what I’m coached [to do], to go out there and make a play,” said Ellington. “Trust the guys that are blocking for me will get the job done. I can handle the rest.”
He certainly handled the rest Sunday, amassing 62 yards and making a case to move up in the depth chart ahead of the team’s Week 3 showdown with the New Orleans Saints.
Yet when asked about it after the game, Ellington said he’s prepared to play regardless of where his name may be listed on a piece of paper.
“I’m not sure how that works,” said Ellington. “We don’t have a set depth chart. Coach [Arians] calls you out there when he wants you out there. You just have to be ready.”