Andre Ellington shoulders heavier load

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Even though Andre Ellington is entering his second season in the NFL as the Arizona Cardinals starting running back, he’s still as soft spoken as a year ago.

While that hasn’t changed, he has.

Ellington said he gained four pounds of muscle during the offseason but he claims it’s enough to shoulder a full load every game.

“My job is just to not take on those big hits but I got to still be able to run routes,” Ellington said. “I play a lot of receiver, too. I don’t want to put on too much weight and get slow in that area.”

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Ellington added “good weight” in upper body muscle and added strength. Ellington will need every ounce if he’ll be touching the ball 25-30 times per game as Arians hoped for earlier this summer. With Rashard Mendenhall retiring in March, Ellington was promoted to Arizona's starting running back but Ellington's not a stranger to the field. He played 386 snaps last season, just 55 fewer than Mendenhall but had 99 less carries.

As a rookie last season Ellington totaled 118 rushes and 39 receptions, which, when combined, averaged about 10.5 touches per game. His work as a runner has been established. Last season Ellington led the NFL with 5.5 yards per carry, but it’s his receiving that Arians wants to see improved. Ellington had 371 receiving yards last season, averaging 9.5 per catch. The Cardinals want to take advantage of Ellington's speed and agility on the run by throwing to him in space.

Although Ellington didn’t put his body through an overhaul to protect him from the rigors of being an every-down back, he’s confident that his 199 pounds will hold up. He just needs to learn to speak up.

“He’s assumed the role of leader now,” Arians said. “He’s not a rookie anymore and he carries himself differently. Probably should come across that way to you guys now. He’s a much more confident guy and more than ready to be the bell cow of the offense.”