Cardinals handing the ball to Andre Ellington as 'every-down running back'

Arizona RB coach Stump Mitchell: 'Absolutely, he was a steal...It’s as if Andre has eyes in the back of his head'

Arizona Cardinals' Andre Ellington rushes against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

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Arizona Cardinals' Andre Ellington rushes against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

After coming up with 'a steal' during last season's NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals are ready to hand the football to Andre Ellington on a full-time basis.

CBSSports.com and Fox 910 are reporting that the Cardinals have settled on the second-year player out of Clemson as their "every-down running back" in 2014.

Ellington's rookie stardom for the NFL team came as a surprise to some, but not to Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who told ESPN that Ellington was mis-labeled as less-than-durable during his career as a Tiger.

“We rode him like a mule (in 2012) and the year before,” Swinney said. “People thought if he wasn’t an every-down guy, that he was an injury-prone guy. There’s this perception of him that wasn’t accurate, for whatever reason. He didn’t miss many games at all. Missed maybe one as a junior and senior.”

Sharing playing time in the backfield with Rashard Mendenhall, Ellington quickly established himself as the Cardinals' most versatile and productive back, as he excelled both as a runner and receiver, and was at times lined up as a slot receiver or wideout.

He finished his rookie year with 118 carries for 652 yards, and led the NFL with his 5.5 per-carry average. Ellington also caught 39 passes for 371 yards - a 9.5 average.

Until the final two weeks of the season, he was just a step away from becoming the first rookie in NFL history to average 6.0 yards per carry and 11.0 yards per catch.

Ellington also had one kickoff return this season, and could see more action as a return specialist.

The 5-9 Ellington has been asked to bulk up a bit from his 199-pound playing weight in 2013, as he takes over the No. 1 running back spot.

Mendenhall is an unrestricted free agent and is not expected to return to the Cardinals. Other running backs on the Arizona roster include injury-plagued former Virginia Tech star Ricky Williams and Stanford's Stepfan Taylor, who was drafted in the fifth round last spring, just ahead of Ellington.

“Absolutely, he was a steal,” Cardinals running backs coach and former Citadel star Stump Mitchell told Bleacher Report. “We saw a lot of what Andre could do on tape. He already put his body of work on tape. It wasn’t as if we were going to ask him to do something that he had not done before. We were just hoping he would be able to duplicate some of the things he had done in college.”

Swinney told every scout who would listen that Ellington was big enough and durable enough to play in the NFL.

“He’s plenty big enough,” Swinney said. “He’s a very elusive guy. He doesn’t take a lot of shots. He’s very smart in how he runs.

“He has a knack for avoiding big hits but always falling forward and always getting yards. He’s a hard guy to tackle. He’s elusive and shifty and has that great first step. When he was here he didn’t take a lot of blowup-type shots. He would always find some grass falling forward.”

Mitchell said that Ellington has a quality that is not easily taught at any level.

“There are those guys who can make people miss and those guys who can’t,” Mitchell said. “It’s harder to teach them to. For whatever reason, they don’t have that extra sense to feel people coming. It’s as if Andre has eyes in the back of his head.”

As for Ellington, he labels his rookie season "just alright."

“Just alright because (there's) a lot that I didn’t do," Ellington told the Cardinals' website. "Our goal was to make it to the playoffs...But overall, I felt like it was alright.”

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Comments » 3

runtodaylite44 writes:

All of us would agree the NFL is a different bear than college ball. Everybody is good in the NFL generally speaking. Andre Ellington had a fantastic career at Clemson but many, including myself had doubts as to how successful he may or may not be once on field in the big leagues. With his lateral quickness and top end speed and his ability to catch a pass he had all the elements to be a top back in the NFL. This past season proved just that. He did more than anyone ever thought he could do, except for himself and a coach or two and, he was as good as they came last year. With his ability to avoid a direct hit and his quickness he stands a chance to play several years as a top rated running back in the NFL. He has the mindset for game, the skill set and most important, he has the heart. All Clemson folks are so happy for you Andre. Keep up the good work and everyone will look forward to seeing you back on campus every chance you have to come for a visit. Good job and we all wish you the best.

Clemorange writes:

Way to go Andre! I had a feeling he was gonna make it big! I think if Boyd can get himself drafted then he will be another steal. Good luck Sammy!!! Bryant you should of came back to boost your draft stock and work on consistently catching the ball but I understand with already having kids. Get on a team with good coaches and you'll be a huge success! Remember no matter what team yall play for, you'll always be a tiger!

tigerrob44#291802 writes:

in response to Clemorange:

Way to go Andre! I had a feeling he was gonna make it big! I think if Boyd can get himself drafted then he will be another steal. Good luck Sammy!!! Bryant you should of came back to boost your draft stock and work on consistently catching the ball but I understand with already having kids. Get on a team with good coaches and you'll be a huge success! Remember no matter what team yall play for, you'll always be a tiger!

When Andre was drafted last year I never gave too much thought to how well he may or may not do. He always had the skills and in college he was a superstar. It looks as though he has moved right on into the NFL with his good play. I, for one, am very excited to see how he does next season. And you are so right about Tajh. He will be drafted very low for someone of his skill set and accomplishments and some team will get him cheap. Then he will burst on the scene and all the so called experts will be saying, “How could we have been so wrong on this guy”? Tajh will be a wonderful NFL quarterback. Maybe not the first year but it won’t take long for him to take the reins of a team and lead them to victory after victory. He has it in him with his athletic ability and his heart. I will say just because he is a nice guy has nothing to do with him making it in the NFL but after his college career he has proved he has the ability. And Clemson didn’t run a single wing offense like Florida did with Tebow. Regarding Bryant, I have a hard time understanding why a 20 year old college kid has two children when he is a fulltime student and a fulltime football player. He lost many millions of dollars by leaving early. I ask you this: If he makes the NFL minimum of $300,000 per year what could he do to make that much money in any other world. Would JPMorgan Chase hired him as an Executive Vice President and pay him a salary that high? Had he received a degree in Chemical or Mechanical Engineering he would have been able to work for a good salary somewhere, after he got a Master’s but nothing close to his base and lowest pay of the NFL. Martavis Bryant will be successful in the NFL and probably from the get go. And Sammy, well, you don’t have to know too much about anything to know what that kid has coming by way of the National Football League. He’s as good as they get and I, personally, will be sad for a long time because he is a Tiger no more. At least an on the field Tiger. He will always love Clemson and I think he will come back as often as his schedule will allow him. Clemson was blessed by Sammy Watkins coming to school there and playing football for Clemson. Thanks for everything Sammy.

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