BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The upcoming NFL Draft is chock full of quality running backs the Cardinals should be taking a look at.
Arizona went through the ringer with their running backs last season, with the domestic violence situation with Jonathan Dwyer getting him removed from the team, and the ongoing injuries Andre Ellington tried to fight through before he had to go on the shelf.
Head coach Bruce Arians said the extra upper body weight Ellington put on had nothing to with his foot troubles and the sports hernia he got near the end of the season.
“It was just one of those freaky foot things,” Arians said.
Arians said Ellington was fortunate it didn’t turn into a Lisfranc injury, where the bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments torn.
“Instead of cracking the bone, he split the tendon,” Arians said. “[He] really gutted it up for us for about 10 weeks as long as he could.”
Arians knows the level of talent that Ellington possesses. He wants to unleash him even more this coming season.
“His role, hopefully, will expand,” Arians said. “We weren’t able to do all the things we practiced because he couldn’t practice on Wednesday and Thursday and he’d limp around on Friday.”
“Other than that, we think he’s a great player, he’s still the focal point of our offense and we’ll try and continue to build around him,” Arians said.
When Arians says build around Ellington, he’s talking about working running backs Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor more in the mix. Williams came in toward the end of last season and provided a spark in the run game that the Cardinals desperately needed as they made their push toward the playoffs.
“I thought the guys that came in at the end of the season played extremely well,” Arians said. “Kerwynn [Williams] especially was a pleasant surprise. [He] ran between the tackles extremely good for a smaller back.”
“Stepfan [Taylor] is as steady a guy as you can have,” Arians said. “He’s a powerful kid, he’s got quick feet and he’s also a heck of a special teams player.”
What Arizona lacked in the run game last year was a power back that could get down and dirty and get the hard yards. Dwyer was going to be the one until his off the field issues got him dismissed from the team.
“We missed Jonathan Dwyer, the bigger back that we had early on in the season,” Arians said. “We’ll see if we can fit someone in that role.”
Even though Arians sees Ellington as the focal point of the offense, it’s hard for him to deny the running back talent that’s on display at the NFL Scouting Combine. There hasn’t been a running back drafted in the first round since the Cleveland Browns selected Trent Richardson third overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Arians feels this draft class could break that streak.
“Yeah I think there’s a possibility this year, you might even see two. There’s some really quality ones in this draft,” Arians said. “It’s finding their roles and putting them in the right slots.”