After running back Andre Ellington’s career day — 15 carries for 154 yards and a touchdown — in the Arizona Cardinals’ 27-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, the operative word that came to mind was ‘how.’
How did the talented rookie out of Clemson fall to the sixth round of 2013 NFL draft? How did the former All-ACC back get overlooked by every general manager not named Steve Keim?
The answer, at least in Keim’s estimation, has a lot to do with an untimely injury Ellington sustained before the NFL Combine.
“He was fast on the college tape we all watched,” Keim told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf Monday. “Again what is confusing at times is when guys don’t post particularly good times in Indy. Obviously, he tweaked his hamstring which is why he ran 4.61 coming out. And then he didn’t have a chance to run at his pro day, because his hamstring didn’t heal up in time. So he didn’t have a verified time better than 4.61 going into the draft.
“You really had to go back and watch all of his college tape and try and add up all of his strengths. I say this often that we go out in the fall and fall in love with players, and then we spend four months in the spring confusing ourselves. That’s the perfect example of a guy who really did himself an injustice in the offseason, but we are just pleased to have him.”
Pleased is probably a little bit of an understatement.
Ellington’s first NFL start Sunday was highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown run in the second quarter — the third-longest in franchise history — and an impressive 10 yards per carry average.
Along with fellow rookie Stepfan Taylor, Ellington combined to give Arizona its first 200-yard rushing game since Beanie Wells paced the team to 268 yards on the ground back on Nov. 27, 2011.
While Ellington, who started against Atlanta in place of Rashard Mendenhall (toe), has certainly proved himself to be a steal so far in 2013 with his team-leading 333 rushing yards, internally one of the major concerns has been whether or not the 5-foot-9 rookie is durable enough to handle a workload befitting of a starting running back.
“I think if he continues to put up performances like [he did on Sunday], I think that will convince us all,” said Keim. “The bottom line is when you watch his run skills and his ability to avoid people and not take big hits on a consistent basis, I think that helps even though he’s a slightly-built guy.
“But that ability to go from zero to 60 in seconds and to change the course of a game is obviously something we are excited about.”