It's just seven days until training camp begins, so I will be counting the days down one at a time, highlighting 7 players who i believe must use this training camp to cement their place on the team.
This piece won’t include obvious picks, such as longshot UDFAs or clear camp bodies. No, this list will be 7 players who you may expect to make the 53, but it may not be as clear cut as you believe.
So read on, and at the end, voice your opinion in the poll and comments below and let me know what you think- expendable talent, or necessary depth?
Andre Ellington, running back, came into the league as a sixth round pick in 2013 out of Clemson. He’s 27 years old with just 364 career carries, but a proven injury history.
Ellington is due to count as 1.67 million against the cap in his final season under his rookie contract, which isn’t much... until you realize he is the highest paid running back on the team. Chris Johnson is making 1.5 million in base salary, with another 1.5 mil in incentives unlikely (reportedly 1,300 yards and Pro Bowl vote) and David Johnson is making less than Stepfan Taylor (both around 750k). Out of that 1.67 million, only 25k is guaranteed, leaving his cap savings at around 1.4 mil.
I don’t think anyone is arguing that Ellington is currently sitting third at the position now, behind David Johnson, who had a sensational rookie year, and Chris Johnson, who enjoyed a renaissance year in the desert. And offense is Ellington’s only current outlet, as he played zero snaps on special teams in 2015. Stepfan Taylor, praised for his ST play, was in on 272 snaps. It’s a crowded backfield, even without mentioning fan favorite Kerwynn Williams.
"Juke" rushed 45 times last year for 289 yards and 3 TDs, adding another 148 yards in receptions. He’s clearly shifty, boasting a career YPC of 4.4. But he’s also injury prone, failing to suit up for 16 games in a season in his career, and playing through numerous injuries. His best highlight last year was the game clincher in Seattle.
The Bottom Line:
It is entirely possible Ellington will make the team, get four to eight touches a game, and hopefully be effective. Also, he’s valuable depth in case one of the Johnsons suffers an injury, and 1.67 isn’t an unreasonable cap hit. But Stepfan Taylor is 2 years younger, 1 million cheaper, plays special teams, and brings a different skill set to the team. So which is it?