Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall is healthy again and ready to return to the Cardinals’ starting lineup. And yet Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says he wants backup running back Andre Ellington to have a bigger role in the offense than ever.
Arians told the team’s website that Mendenhall will start Sunday, but Arians also wants Ellington to get about 20 touches a game.
That sounds highly unlikely: Even with Mendenhall out and Ellington starting in the Cardinals’ last game, Ellington totaled just 17 touches, with 15 carries and two catches. It seems awfully unlikely that Ellington would get more touches while backing Mendenhall up than he got while starting in Mendenhall’s place.
But what is clear is that even though Arians feels a lot of loyalty toward Mendenhall, Arians realizes that Ellington has been the more explosive playmaker of the two of them this season. Mendenhall has 92 carries for 281 yards this season, an average of 3.1 yards a carry, plus 10 catches for 66 yards, an average of 6.6 yards a catch. Ellington has 43 carries for 333 yards this season, an average of 7.7 yards a carry, plus 22 catches for 198 yards, an average of 9.0 yards a catch.
Mendenhall may be the starter, but Ellington is playing better. And Arians wants to put the ball in the hands of the back who’s making plays, regardless of who’s listed first on the depth chart.