The Cardinals are expected to use Ellington as more of a wide receiver than a running back in 2017, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports. Ellington was on the sideline for 1,001 of the Cardinals' 1,151 offensive snaps during the 2016 season, but the impetus was the heavy usage afforded do-it-all running back David Johnson. If Ellington is indeed utilized as a wideout in the fall, he would remove the shackles placed upon him by the presence of Johnson. Helping Ellington's cause is a career catch rate of 67.8 percent, which indicates that success in such a role is plausible. Moreover, the cupboard is suddenly a bit more bare at the position behind perennial top option Larry Fitzgerald.
Ellington signed a one-year deal Monday to remain with the Cardinals, Kent Somers of AzCentral.com reports. Ellington impressed as a rookie sixth-round pick in 2013, totaling over 1,000 yards and averaging 6.5 yards per touch on offense, but injuries and the emergence of David Johnson have combined to diminish his role in Arizona's backfield since. This past season, Ellington saw merely 46 touches, despite playing in all 16 games. While his signing could mean the Cardinals don't bring back Chris Johnson, perhaps clearing him for second-string duties, David Johnson's status as one of the league's best tailbacks leaves Ellington's fantasy stock rooted in need of an injury to his teammate.
Ellington handled 34 carries for 96 yards, corralled 12 of 19 passes for 85 yards, and averaged 16.3 yards on 10 punt returns during the 2016 season. When a team's backfield is populated by a dynamo like David Johnson, touches are difficult to mine, especially with Chris Johnson receiving mop-up duty in his stead. Even when the latter was lost for the season following sports hernia surgery in early October, Ellington was merely a change-of-pace option, with the younger Johnson more often than not gobbling up all the carries on a weekly basis. Head coach Bruce Arians extended Ellington an olive branch in the form of kick-return duty, but the RB didn't make his presence felt in that realm after Week 10. The final nail in the coffin for Ellington's time with the Cardinals was likely the emergence of Kerwynn Williams, who averaged 8.7 YPC over the final four games of the campaign. As an unrestricted free agent once March rolls around, Ellington may have packed up his locker in Arizona for the final time.
Ellington caught a nine-yard pass in Sunday's loss to the Saints. Ellington's season has officially bottomed out, with just eight combined offensive snaps over the past two weeks. Ellington has reached 20 total yards just twice all year and once since Week 6. The veteran back's output looks all the worse with David Johnson on an all-world pace and Kerwynn Williams showing some big-play ability in recent weeks.
Ellington rushed five times for five yards in Sunday's win over Washington. He added a 10-yard catch off of two targets. Ellington was literally running in place at times, but the veteran back can take solace in tying a season high with six touches. It's a small victory in a season that has been spent behind the one of the league's most dynamic young rushers. As David Johnson continues to roll, it's hard to find much space for Ellington to work.
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