Cardinals’ James Saxon says RB room is the deepest he’s ever coached
Aug 5, 2021, 12:40 PM
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
As the second week of training camp comes to an end, Arizona Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon is creating a lot of buzz around his running back room.
Saxon believes this group can be special.
“This is a very good room,” Saxon told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Thursday. “I don’t know if I’ve had a room quite as deep as this one. These guys are all competitors. They’re all different skillsets.”
That’s saying a lot coming from a guy who’s taught multiple elite running backs throughout his 20-year coaching career at the position. Saxon has mentored star backs like Le’Veon Bell, Adrian Peterson, Ricky Williams and Larry Johnson.
Cardinals running backs Chase Edmonds and James Conner fall next in line under Saxon’s wing. Both are expected to get the majority of the snaps this season, but others could see the field as well.
Former undrafted free agent Jonathan Ward mainly played special teams for the Cardinals last season, and he’s already building on that in his first ever training camp.
“He’s been a stud so far,” defensive lineman Zach Allen said. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch him.”
Right behind Ward is former Arizona State Sun Devil Eno Benjamin, who remained inactive all of last season.
But the former seventh round pick has put in a lot work this offseason, and it’s not going unnoticed.
“It’s good to see,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the team’s practice on Thursday. “I can’t tell you how far he’s come last training camp to now, just the way he’s approaching the game. Study habits, in the classroom, on the field, it’s just great to see.”
Benjamin is becoming a more well-rounded back, and he’s impressed so much that he received reps with the first team.
“We all know he’s dynamic when the ball is in his hands, but he’s starting to do those other things in pass protection and on special teams that we’ve been waiting to see,” Kingsbury said. “I’m excited to watch him in the preseason.”
Running backs Tavien Feaster and Khalfani Muhammad round out the rest of the depth chart.
Saxon said he is excited to coach every one of them, especially Conner. He and Saxon spent two seasons together with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2017-18.
Statistically, Conner had his best season on the ground when he rushed for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018.
“This guy is a hard-nosed dude,” Saxon said. “He’s going to do everything you ask him to do and even more than that … We’re fortunate to have this guy, and I’m happy to have him. He’ll be a great addition.”
Conner should be a solid No. 2 option for Kingsbury, as Edmonds is expected to be the starter.
This will be the first season that the 25-year-old will be sought out to lead Arizona’s rushing attack.
Edmonds hopes to build upon a very productive 2020, where he finished with a career best in rushing (448) and receiving (402).