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Saturday, March 8, 2014
2013 Roster in Review: Running backs

By Josh Weinfuss

Starter: Rashard Mendenhall

Backup: Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor, Alfonso Smith, Ryan Williams

Under contract in 2014: Ellington, Taylor

Cash committed in '13: $4.99 million

Cap committed in '13: $5.3 million

Recap: Mendenhall had the name heading into 2013, but Ellington ended up having the game. A sixth-round pick, Ellington showed the Cardinals' brass what they already knew -- that he was a steal. Ellington led the NFL with an average of 5.53 yards per run and was the lightning to Mendenhall's thunder.  What helped make Ellington a threat for the Cardinals was his ability to line up as a receiver as well as a running back.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians didn't want to make Ellington the primary back because he thought the Clemson product was too small and not strong enough to handle a full load, but Ellington's numbers put that debate to rest. Through about 75 percent of the season, Ellington was in the conversation for offensive rookie of the year but that talk subsided after Mendenhall came back from the bye week with a healthy turf toe and played up to his standard. When the toe injury started bothering Mendenhall, his speed was instantly affected, rendering him incapable of breaking away from defenders.

It was during Mendenhall's injury that Cardinals' fans warmed to the idea of having Ellington as their primary back -- a move that's likely to happen in 2014 along with Taylor filling the secondary role. Taylor was used primarily as a betwee-the-tackles rusher, but he was able to show his speed bursts at times.