Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington: I have a lot to prove
Aug 2, 2015, 5:57 PM | Updated: 7:50 pm
(Photo by Adam Green/ArizonaSports)
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The comment raised some eyebrows a year ago: Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians wanted to get running back Andre Ellington 25-30 touches a game.
But then Ellington hurt his foot; and though he played through the injury — starting the first 12 games before being placed on injured reserve with a sports hernia — his limitation in practice during the week limited what Arians was able to do offensively on Sundays.
Fast forward to this season.
Arians still wants Ellington heavily involved — “somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 touches a game whether it’s run or pass,” he said Sunday — but perhaps not the main focus, a credit to the depth among the skill position players.
Ellington, the team’s sixth-round pick in 2013, is coming off a season in which he rushed for a team-best 660 yards, barely above (eight yards, to be exact) what he produced as a rookie. However, Ellington rushed 83 more times (201), which severely hurt his per carry average.
Ellington went from averaging 5.5 yards per carry to 3.3.
“I wasn’t able to be myself,” he explained. “I had those injuries in the back of my mind and it kind of slowed me down a little bit. But, I’m out here feeling good. I’m getting better every day.”
Now, does the 26-year-old former Clemson Tiger believe he is all the way back?
“Yeah, I do for the most part,” he said, smiling. “I feel good. I feel like I got all my explosion back and I’m just moving well. I’m in sync with the offense, so it feels good.”
A healthy Ellington is one of the many reasons expectations are so high for the Cardinals entering 2015.
“I have a lot to prove,” he said. “My first year is over with, that’s two years ago. I’m a new and improved player now, and I’m going to be ready to go out there and show them what I can do.”
Ellington wouldn’t bite when asked how he had improved — “we’ll see Game 1,” he said — but the additions along the offensive line, for one, has him excited for the season.
“We’re going to try to do way better than we did last year running the ball,” he said, “and hopefully we can be top five when the season is over.”
That would be quite the story.
A year ago, the Cardinals rushed for 81.7 yards a game, next-to-last in the NFL.
Arians would like his offense to be more balanced — “you would always like to stay somewhere in the 50-50 range and then let the fourth quarter dictate whether you’re ahead or behind,” he said — and may get his wish depending not only on the health of Ellington, but the ability of third-round pick David Johnson, who received high marks this offseason.
Though he’s OK sharing the backfield this season, Ellington wouldn’t mind being the featured back yet again.
“Yeah, of course, because I know what I can do when the ball is in my hands. That’s what I work hard for every day, just to become that guy,” he said, before adding, “but it’s a team sport. I have great players surrounding me and those guys can get the job done as well.
“Whatever (Arians) wants me to do I’m willing to do it.”