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Arizona Cardinals stats: Will Andre Ellington have to pass protect more in 2014?

The dynamic back was not asked to do it much.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

For Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, a running back has two primary duties -- run the ball and pass block. He does not expect them to catch the ball much.

Enter Andre Ellington and you have a contradiction. A dynamic runner and impact receiver, Arians did not ask Ellington to do much  in terms of blitz pickup.

Using Pro Football Focus numbers (subscription required), Ellington was asked to pass block only 23 times in 414 total stats -- 5.5 percent of the time.

Compare that to the other three backs that got playing time (Ryan Williams was inactive all 16 games). Rashard Mendenhall played 470 snaps and pass blocked 58 times -- 12.3 percent of the time. Stepfan Taylor pass blocked 36 of 135 snaps (26.7 percent) and Alfonso Smith did so 37 times in 133 snaps (27.8 percent).

Yes, Ellington's numbers are a little off because he lined up at receiver frequently. So of those 414 snaps, if 100 of them were at receiver (I couldn't find the exact number and did not have time to go over all the team's games, but this could be a decent approximation -- he was targeted 57 times), that would still be asking him to pass block just over seven percent of the time.

Ellington is now the clear starter at running back, at least he is in the words of the head coach. Does that mean he will get the majority of the snaps at running back? If so, he will have to pass block more than last year.

Of course, Arians has also said that the offense will feature more two-back formations this season, which sounds a lot like one will be in the backfield and Ellington will either motion out or line up at receiver. Either way, it takes away the pass blocking expectation.

It seems like Ellington is a special enough player that Arians can overlook or purposely cover up the fact the Ellington's strong suit is not blitz pickup. It is a big reason why LaRod Stephens-Howling was not brought back. Even Stephens-Howling pass blocked on 57 of 345 snaps in 2012 (15.6 percent).

Ellington is the anti-Arians running back. He doesn't block well and he is asked to catch the ball.

So when we hear from Arians "why not 20 carries and 10 catches," you know he can't be serious. If he is carrying the ball 20 times, either it will always be an Ellington run every single time he lines up in the backfield or he will have to block more than he had to last season.

Can Ellington become a more complete back in 2014, or will his deficiencies be masked like last season?

It will be an interesting thing to watch in the preseason and regular season.