GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians made it clear earlier in the week: If Rashard Mendenhall is not be able to go, then Andre Ellington would get the start against Atlanta.
It will be the first NFL start for the sixth-round pick out of Clemson when the Cardinals host the Falcons Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“He’s been fantastic,” Arians said Friday of Ellington, who has rushed for 179 yards on 28 carries, 64 fewer than Mendenhall. “He was great all preseason. Every chance he’s had an opportunity, he’s done the right thing. (I’m) more than confident in him.”
Ellington also provides a receiving threat, boasting 20 catches for 190 yards on the season, sometimes coming out of the backfield or lining up in the slot.
“It’s going to mean a lot to me because it’s the next game. I’m able to play in another game in the NFL. I’m blessed to do that,” he said Friday when asked about possibly starting. “I’m going to out there and give it my best.”
Fellow rookie Stepfan Taylor will be the backup running back against Atlanta with Alfonso Smith as the third-down back. Ryan Williams, who was hoping to play this week, is inactive, as he has been all season long.
The other inactives: Receiver Brittan Golden, quarterback Ryan Lindley, guard Earl Watford, tight end Kory Sperry and defensive end Ronald Talley.
Mendenhall did not practice all week because of a toe injury. Golden was limited with a hamstring issue, while Watford was dealing with a knee and Talley a wrist.
Right tackle Bobby Massie is active for the second straight week. Linebacker and former Hamilton High School standout Dontay Moch is active after sitting out against Seattle. And tight end D.C. Jefferson will be in uniform for the first time since Week 4 at Tampa Bay.