Andre Ellington’s breakout 2013 season didn’t go unnoticed outside of Arizona’s four corners.
The play-making runningback caught the attention of NFL pundits nationwide who, like much of the Arizona Cardinals fan base, were left desiring more touches for the speedy back.
Last season, Ellington managed 1,023 total yards — 652 rushing and 371 receiving — with four touchdowns. He was targeted just 57 times by Carson Palmer and he accrued 118 carries — about eight per game he played.
The 25-year-old’s dual ability to impact both the Cardinals’ rushing and passing offense, and his elusive upfield presence, make him one of coach Bruce Arians’ premier weapons in the upcoming season.
NFL.com see him as much, slating him third on their “Making the Leap” list for 2014.
As they explain:
An improved offensive line (the Cardinals were one of the worst units in football last season) should provide more opportunities for Ellington to burst into the secondary where he can gallop in open grass.
How big of a workload is Arians willing to heap on the running back? While the coach suggested Ellington could take 30 carries if needed, Arians is a self-admitted liar. Still, an uptick to 220 to 230 carries (an average of 14 carries per game) and 45 to 55 catches (3.5 per game) would be a massive increase in the runner’s workload.
But, the site mentions, don’t expect a cake walk for the suddenly-sensational back. The book is out on him and defenses will be more prepared to stop his unique attack.
Ellington put on 10 pounds in the offseason in anticipation of the heavier workload, but injuries are always a concern. He had toe and ankle surgeries in college, suffered a concussion last offseason, missed a game in 2013 with an injured knee and battled a thigh injury late last season. Still, his build is not unlike that of Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles, who have proven to be durable.
Questions remain about his ability to protect the passer. With Arians preferring to send him on routes, Ellington wasn’t asked to stay in and protect much — only 21 times did he pass-block for the quarterback, per Pro Football Focus. As an everyday starter he’ll have to show a willingness and ability to take on those duties.
Nevertheless, it would, indeed, be a welcomed sight to see Ellington “make the leap” and improve upon his eye-opening 2013. And the idea isn’t all that far-fetched.