The Arizona Cardinals haven’t wowed anyone through the first seven weeks of the 2013 NFL season, which isn’t all that surprising. With a 3-4 record, they are certainly much improved since adding Carson Palmer as a semi-competent starting quarterback, but they also haven’t looked like a playoff team really in any capacity, though they are certainly in the hunt still.
Palmer hasn’t been MVP-worthy or anything, but he’s been better than the Ryan Lindley type quarterbacks the Cardinals dealt with last year. He’s been able to work the passing game and utilize the talents of Larry Fitzgerald and so on. However, Arizona’s ground game has been less effective.
The Cardinals signed veteran running back Rashard Mendenhall this summer in a move that hasn’t turned out ideally thus far. Mendenhall leads the Cardinals in carries on the ground this season, but has been less-than-stellar with his production. On 92 rushing attempts, Mendenhall has accrued only 281 yards and three touchdowns, good for a mere 3.1 yards per carry.
It’s pretty clear that the experiment with Mendenhall hasn’t worked out thus far. However, what has worked for them is when they’ve put the ball in the hands of rookie back Andre Ellington.
Ellington has only 28 carries on the season, but has amassed 179 yards on the ground, as well as getting into the end-zone once. His 6.4 yards per carry dwarf Mendenhall’s average this season. Moreover, Ellington has also been productive as a pass-catcher, catching 20 balls for 190 yards and one touchdown on the year. His production as in the passing game leaves him as the third leading receiver on the Cardinals.
Though he’s not been able to prove what he can do with a full workload, every time Ellington has touched the ball this season, it seems that good things have happened. If I’m the Cardinals, I’m trying to get him more involved going forward. He’s simply been better than Mendenhall and has the playmaking ability that could be something special. As they sit just one game out of a wildcard spot in the NFC, relying on Ellington more could be the move that gets the Cardinals over the hump.