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Rookie Andre Ellington adds spark to Arizona Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. – Andre Ellington’s fan club is continuing to grow.

“A lot of family was calling to congratulate me,” the rookie said Monday when asked if his phone has been busy over the last 24 hours or so.

A sixth-round pick out of Clemson, Ellington has burst onto the scene for an Arizona Cardinals team in desperate need of some offensive punch. He made his first career start Sunday, and all he did was rush for 154 yards and a touchdown in a 27-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Eighty of those yards, and the touchdown, came on a second-quarter jaunt.

“Andre added a lot of spark to us, especially on the long run, and then everybody kind of fed off it,” head coach Bruce Arians said.

“He stepped up a lot,” receiver Michael Floyd added. “He had his chance to go in there and shine and he did it. We’re happy for him and we’re hoping that he keeps doing it.”

For the most part, whenever Ellington has touched the ball this season, something good has happened for the Cardinals. Listed as the backup to Rashard Mendenhall but typically playing a fair share of snaps every game, he has become a valuable weapon for Arians and the offense.

His ascension has been quick, but if you ask the running back — or anyone else involved with the Cardinals — you’ll get the impression that it has not been all that surprising.

“I’m a big fan of Ellington,” defensive lineman Darnell Dockett added. “I saw him, kind of, kill us at Florida State, and when we drafted him I was like, ‘Oh wow, he’s a good running back for people who don’t know.'”

People know now.

Listed at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds, Ellington has gained 333 yards on 43 carries this season. He’s also caught 22 passes for 198 yards, and has reached the end zone three times.

He’s already done plenty more than many outsiders thought he would in his first season, and as of right now there is a belief that the Cardinals have something special on their hands.

Of course, at just 24, he’s far from a finished product, and he knows it.

“I’m not satisfied at all,” he said of where he’s at halfway through his rookie season. “I’m having success; it’s Week 8. We still have a long season and I’m going to go back to work tomorrow at practice and try to get better.”

Arians noted there are places he could improve.

“He can still be a little more patient as a runner,” he said. “He missed some things.”

The coach also said Ellington needs to improve his pass blocking “to stay out there,” though it’s hard to see the team keeping him off the field much these days.

Eight games into his NFL career, the talk is not about what Ellington hasn’t done — it’s about what he could do. And right now, the possibilities seem limitless.

“I don’t know, I guess time will tell,” he said when asked what the future holds for him. “Only thing I control is just going to work every day and just trying to get better.”