Arizona Cardinals' head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim are saying different things about Andre Ellington, but they're on the same page when it comes expanding the role of the second-year Clemson running back.
A day after Keim cautioned that Ellington wasn't going to be "a 25-carry a game guy," Arians made it clear Ellington’s role will expand from his rookie season.
“He has a unique talent we want to look at and continue to build our offense around this year," Arians said during an interview sessions at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Friday.
Arians said Ellington has already added about 10 pounds during the off-season, something that Ellington previously said was a priority to help him improve his durability.
Arians said Ellington's versatility gives the Cardinals a unique element around which to develop their offense.
“I’ve never been around a running back who stepped on the field and tried to do things he’s never done before and played wide receiver as good as he does,” Arians said. “He plays it as well as most of our starting wide receivers."
A year ago at this time, Ellington's NFL future was anything but certain. He attended the Combine and went through interviews, but was unable to run the 40-yard dash because of a nagging hamstring injury.
He came back later in the spring and ran a 4.52 at Clemson's Pro Day, but went undrafted through five rounds until the Cardinals took him in the sixth.
He averaged an NFL-best 5.5 yards per carry last season as a rookie, including an 80-yard touchdown, and didn’t lose a fumble. He also caught 39 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown, and had 244 yards-after-catch.
While Ellington's role will expand next season, the Cardinals aren't looking to turn him into a traditional workhorse back.
Keim said earlier this week that Ellington will be part of a "platoon of backs" that also includes Stepfan Taylor, a second-year pro out of Stanford, and former ACC player of the year Ryan Williams, from Virginia Tech.
"Andre, the way he's built, is body type, is more in line with Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles," Keim said. "His speed and acceleration, his movement skills, that's his strength.
"To say you're going to play him 25 to 35 snaps, pounding the ball between the tackles, you're probably leaving yourself open to injuries. So any time we can take a young man like him, add some weight without losing his speed and movement skills, I think you're doing yourself a favor...
"Stepfan Taylor has been fantastic for us, not only in the pass protection phase but his run skills. He and Andre are really polar opposites - you have a perimeter runner, and then you have an inside pounder like Stepfan. He's a guy we have big expectations for us. He's very smart. He's articulate. Great young man, works his tail off. I think the future is really bright for him."