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Creating Touches for Andre Ellington: Is it the Right Call?

Andre Ellington is dynamic, but is having him return punts and kicks the best idea?

NFL: Preseason-Arizona Cardinals at San Diego Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals have made a move on the depth chart, listing Andre Ellington as the number one return man for both kickoffs and punts.

This seemed like a long time coming for Ellington, who is a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands.

The issue becomes twofold for Ellington.

1. He has not returned kicks since he came into the NFL and he got worse and worse every year he did it at Clemson. After a sub-par return season as a freshman, with six returns for 95 yards (15.8 yards per return), he returned seven kicks for 238 yards (34 yards per return) and a touchdown as a sophomore. His junior year he only returned five kicks, but totaled 131 yards (26.2 yards per return) and his senior season he returned a career high eight kicks for 178 yards (22.3 yards per return).

2. Ellington is one of those players who is constantly nicked up.

While we can be concerned about his lack of time returning punts in his college or pro careers, one time for three yards as a freshman at Clemson, it is more the fact that you have to wonder if Ellington can stand up to the pounding.

Last season the Cardinals had 39 punt return opportunities and 32 kick return opportunities. Now, this doesn’t include fair catches and touchbacks, but the idea of getting the ball in Ellington’s hands 71 more times is tantalizing.

Yet, for Ellington, his best work was when he was utilized the least. He had the most yards per carry of his career in 2015 with 6.4 and yards per reception with 9.9. Of course we all remember the dynamic rookie season, where he again was a part time player.

Everyone loves the idea of getting the ball into Ellington’s hands more, but how will it affect his overall play? Can he handle the increase in work?