This day was coming. It was inevitable. Leading up to the Falcons game, rookie sensation Andre Ellington had been limited with his touches in previous Cardinals games, but the clamor for him to get more opportunities was loud. He averaged eight yards per carry on seven rushes against San Francisco. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry on seven rushes against Carolina. He was making an impact.
And against Atlanta it all came together. The former Clemson standout showed the NFL what he could do when given the chance. He got 17 touches (15 rushes and two receptions), and he turned them into 162 total yards including a 80-yard touchdown scamper.
In the process, the changing of the guard came about, from Larry Fitzgerald to Andre Ellington. There is a new star of this offense, a new electrifying player that Arizona will count on to move the chains, bust big plays and give defensive coordinators headaches.
Fitzgerald is still capable of big games, still can help this team win games. But he is not the same player that he was through the first eight years of his career. On Sunday, Fitz had four catches for 48 yards, and this came after a two-reception for 17 yards performance against Seattle. After gaining just 798 yards last season, he again is on pace to go under 1,000 this year. It’s a far cry from the numbers he put up in his prime — 1,411 in 2011, 1,431 in 2008, 1,409 in 2007 and 1,409 in 2005.
But this isn’t about Fitz. While he may no longer be a top 10 receiver in this game — he is now 29th in receptions in the NFL — he is still a consumate pro and can still help this team. But Ellington can be the star. Ellington can steal the show, and he proved that on Sunday. He is now averaging an eye-popping 7.7 yards per carry on the season.
Now it should be no surprise to the Arizona brass that their 6th round draft pick is making an impact. He was a stud at Clemson. He had 231 rushing yards against Auburn last season, accounted for 142 yards versus Florida State and chipped in 132 rushing yards against Boston College. And in 2011, he torched Maryland for 212 rushing yards as one of his five 100-yard rushing games.
The kid can play. The only reason he was drafted so late was because of his size — just 5-9, 199 pounds. Questions about how he will hold up were legitimate. But Arizona won’t ask Ellington to carry the ball 25 times. They will ask him to get 15-20 combined touches. And with that many touches, he will a force to be reckoned with. He is too explosive, too talented not to have several explosive plays per game.
And in a nutshell, Ellington’s touches compared to Fitz, who is averaging four receptions a game, is the key to this team. It’s kind of obvious. Ellington is now the most dangerous offensive weapon on this team. The changing of the guard is in full swing.