As Ellington makes plays, Arians stands by Mendenhall

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According to just about everyone who has watched the Cardinals this season, Andre Ellington is a better running back than Rashard Mendenhall. According to the only person whose opinion matters, Mendenhall is still the starter.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians claimed after Sunday’s win over the Texans that Mendenhall “played extremely well” and said he had “no doubt” that his decision to start Mendenhall over Ellington was the right one.

That’s hard to understand. Arians made those comments after a game in which Ellington had more yards on fewer carries than Mendenhall, and all season Ellington has been making big plays that Mendenhall doesn’t make: Ellington’s 23-yard run against the Texans on Sunday was his fifth run of more than 20 yards in 54 carries this season. In 105 carries this season, Mendenhall’s longest run is just 12 yards.

Overall, Ellington has 388 yards and is averaging 7.2 yards a carry, and he’s added 24 catches for 216 yards, an average of 9.0 yards a catch. Mendenhall has 323 yards, an average of 3.1 yards a carry, and has added 11 catches for 75 yards, an average of 6.8 yards a catch.

And to top it all off, Mendenhall lost a crucial fumble at the Cardinals’ 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter on Sunday that put the Texans back in a game that the Cardinals should have been able to put away. That was Mendenhall’s third fumble of the season, and his sixth fumble in 156 carries over the last two seasons. Ellington has only fumbled once, and he recovered that fumble himself.

The Cardinals’ defense is playing great, and at 5-4 they have a chance at making some noise in the wild card race if they can get some big plays on offense. Ellington is the running back who makes those big plays, but for some reason, Arians is sticking with Mendenhall.

36 responses to “As Ellington makes plays, Arians stands by Mendenhall

  1. Mendy must have something on the coach……or Arians needs to upgrade those Big ole glasses he wears.

  2. Bruce Arians is an offensive genius!!! Remember Super Bowl 43, when his Steelers offense scored 20 points against the worst defensive team in Super Bowl history? Genius!!!

  3. This baffles me, too. Ellington is a young stud that’s breaking off huge chunks of yardage and Mendy can’t stay healthy or be counted on to hold the ball. Odd.

  4. this is probably the smartest move i have seen out of an Arizona coach in a long time.

    He has a weapon, but understands that if that weapon breaks, it might never be the same again.

    it’s forgone that the Cardinals are not Superbowl bound. Next year they will have the opportunity to add a better piece to that back field to compliment Ellington.

    There’s no reason in putting this kid at risk right now. at 5’9 199lb, it’s best to let this kid work into system, let him get comfortable with the schemes, then give him an off season to bulk up.
    if he comes back at 210-215, then you can expect a increase in the load he carries. But right now, this balance between Mendenhal & Ellington is fine.

  5. looks like every other post in here is more concerned about the fantasy stats then actually helping the Cardinals become a serious contender.

    makes sense,,,, if you don’t think about it.

  6. ba lobbied to get mendenhall thats why. can’t say in essense that he is a bust after that. i figure we have at least one more game before he gets hurt again. the other queston is why is williams sitting on the bench and why isn’t taylor being used more. shades of wiz stubborness

  7. Fantasy Nerd Alert! I think everyone can agree that Ellington is making more plays than Mendenhall, but do you expect him to carry the ball 30 times a game? It would be a mistake. Mendenhall still understands offense better and is better in pass protection (which helps with Cards weak o-line). Eventually Ellington will assume the duties of the starter, but for now he is a great change-of-pace back that fits his role perfectly. I’m so glad that I no longer participate in fantasy football. I’ve become a much better fan.

  8. The sooner Ellington gets the nod, the sooner the cards will be relevant in the NFC West. Playing Ellington would help everyone out; LBs will have to respect his versitility so the TE/WRs will get open easier, Carson will be more comfortable, and the offense will move down the field and be more affective


  9. Arians has his veteran ‘favorites’ with whom he has a history, but loyalty can be taken too far. Mendenhall isn’t the same running back he was before his injuries, and his mistakes are piling up. Pittsburgh thought he was too loyal to his favorite guys and dumped him for it. Hope he doesn’t make the same mistake as AZ head coach, but this is a sign that Arians is headed down the same road.

  10. I just don’t get his reasoning. Is he so stubborn to admit that his guy that he brought in is not working out? Taylor runs harder for the short yard you need on 3rd down. Ryan Williams is healthy. Mendenhall is on a 1 year contract. Cut ties now. You lose nothing but potential games by sticking with him when you have a shot of making a playoff run with your defense.

  11. It’s bizarro world all around. Not only should Ellington starting over Mendy be a no brainer but the same thing is happening in Cincy with Bernard and in Indy with Brown. Just doesn’t make sense.

  12. “And to top it all off, Mendenhall lost a crucial fumble at the Cardinals’ 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter on Sunday that put the Texans back in a game that the Cardinals should have been able to put away.”


    Sounds like the Arians/Mendenhall combo that got run out of Pittsburgh after fumbling away a Super Bowl and various other key games over the years.

    These two deserve each other.

  13. Ellington is obviously the better runner… but what about the 60% of the time that Palmer drops back to pass? Blitz pickup is tough for running backs to learn, especially for rookies. You can’t let your QB get hurt or tip the defense that it’s a running play because Ellington is in the game.

  14. The issue is not Ellington over Mendenhall, its Taylor over Mendenhall. Ellington needs to be used like Sproles and Taylor/Mendenhall are between the tackles backs.

  15. I was upset to see Ellington only get 13 touches Sunday and Mendy even more, but the numbers between these guys are largely because of how they are being used. When used out of basic run packages, all the Cardinals RBs…Mendy, Ellington, Taylor and Smith…are performing about the same. Ellington is excelling in open space and used as a WR, and was even used in the Wildcat with Patrick Peterson for a series Sunday. I think Arians is incorporating this rookie in well, and we’ll only see more and more of him. In the meantime, Arians knows Mendy and is using him up for the year they bought him for, all while bringing along Stanford rookie Taylor, who also looks like a rookie RB steal for the Cardinals. I bet Mendy is gone next year or accepts a backup role, while Taylor and Ellington excel behind returning LG Jonathan Cooper and whichever LT the Cardinals draft in the first.

  16. Plus, who your “starter” is is not a big deal other than at QB for Arians. Mathieu wasn’t a starter until this week and he’s been playing as much as one all season. Name Mendy the starter and rush him 3 times versus 15 for Ellington and 15-20 for Stepfan Taylor, that’s what really counts.

  17. BA is making a great decision of splitting the carries between Ellington and mendenhall. This reduces the work load and injury risks for both backs. This should keep both backs fresher for the last 8 games.

  18. What’s going on here is that Mendenhall starts the game out, wears down the defense a bit, then they plug in Ellington’s fresh legs against a tired defense for most of the second half carries. That has helped Ellington be more effective. He should definitely still be getting more carries than he does though.

  19. I think fans are overreacting. Mendenhall is a guy who can take punishment. Ellington cannot. As a fan, I can understand why Ellington is not starting, and honstly it doesn’t matter who starts, its about how players are used.

    I’m fine with how the running back situation is being handled. Be smart. Send out the slower and more durable back to take 60% of the hits, and then hit them with the faster, shifty back when the defense is used to a slower guy.

  20. The REAL question: Why not sprinkle in Stephan Taylor to take carries away from Mendenhall?

    Ellington needs to basically be Darren Sproles, but they need a better straight ahead RB.

  21. I bet Arians is doing this because he sees an opportunity to win over some loyalty points with the Arizona Brass that signed Mendy for too much money.

    It’s obvious that Ellington is the better back, but why subtly undermine management and waste Ellington’s tread when it’s clear Arizona isn’t contending for anything significant anyway? Just to be “right”? No. Get some cohesiveness from top to bottom in the organization which will earn you respect from both the players and the executives. I like it, even though my fantasy team doesn’t.

  22. Arians is being stubborn and an idiot. His argument is that Ellington does not have the size @ 5’9″ 199lbs to be an every down back. Why don’t you take a look at the 9-0 Chiefs and tell Andy Reid that Jamaal Charles isn’t an every down back. I mean he’s ONLY 5’11” 200lbs.

    Give me a break, the guy has a love affair for Mendenhall because he took him as his back when he used to be the OC in Pittsburgh and refuses to admit that MAYBE he is not as good as Arians thinks he is.

  23. Don’t believe everything you hear from an NFL head coach. Didn’t Tom Coughlin say that the Giants were gonna ease Andre Brown into game action last Sunday? Yeah. They only gave him 31 touches (30 carries, 1 reception).

  24. Cardinal fan here…while we are complaining about the usage, Ellington IS getting results, so its hard to have a problem with Arians.

    There isn’t a guarantee that Ellingtons production maintains if given a larger workload. (Much like that of Darren Sproles).

    I think the fact that Mendenhall is the only viable Veteran in the backfield is the reason he is being used as he us.

    Next year, I fully expect a Cardinals tandem of Ellington and Taylor.

  25. @myeagle

    You do realize your own rb, LeSean McCoy has the same frame as Ellington, right? Not to mention Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, and many other running backs that carry a full load. It’s idiots like you that don’t understand football and think people the size of Drew Brees can’t hack it, but do. Arians likes to play the “he’s fragile” card. He had a toe and ankle injury for god’s sake, not multiple ACL injuries to the same knee. Not to mention he carried Clemson his final year, proving he’s more than healthy and durable enough. Problem is with idiotic Arians, A. he sucks as a coach. He was loathed in Pittsburgh for sucking so much, and happened to have one good year thanks to Luck and a good defensive coordinator, which with Pagano now back, shows that Arians had absolutely nothing to do with their success, and B. He’s still in bed with Mendenhall, among many other ex-steelers players starting that clearly sucks. It’s obvious from a mile away that Arians is an idiot who plays favorites and crappy coaches like him can’t be shielded by good talent on a team for long. Cheers from a Cardinals fan to hoping he is fired and never allowed to touch another NFL team again.

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