Cardinals’ James Saxon says RB room is the deepest he’s ever coached

Aug 5, 2021, 12:40 PM

Chase Edmonds #29 of the Arizona Cardinals rushes during the first half of a game against the Los A...

Chase Edmonds #29 of the Arizona Cardinals rushes during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

(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).

Arizona Cardinals

Isaiah Simmons practices...

Tyler Drake

Nick Rallis, Cardinals not rushing process with LB Isaiah Simmons

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons has been a defensive nomad throughout his career. Will he have a home in Year 4?

1 day ago

Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals shakes hands with fans after beating the Seattle Seahawks 2...

Wills Rice

Carson Palmer believes Cardinals need Budda Baker

Carson Palmer thinks keeping safety Budda Baker around is vital for the rebuilding years of the Arizona Cardinals.

1 day ago

DeAndre Hopkins...

Arizona Sports

Breer: ‘There’s a healthy divide’ on what ex-Cardinal DeAndre Hopkins has left

The MMQB's Albert Breer sees a split between those who think Hopkins still has something left and those who feel his price tag is too steep.

2 days ago

DeAndre Hopkins speaks after a game...

Dan Bickley

DeAndre Hopkins’ release ends WR’s selfish legacy with Cardinals

For the second time in three years, DeAndre Hopkins is moving on to another team and bringing little or nothing of value in return.

2 days ago

Zaven Collins tackles Dalvin Cook...

Tyler Drake

Vikings hosting joint practices with Cardinals ahead of preseason matchup

The Minnesota Vikings are hosting the Arizona Cardinals for joint practices ahead of their preseason tilt on Aug. 26.

2 days ago

DeAndre Hopkins...

Tyler Drake

Positives of DeAndre Hopkins’ release outweigh negative of Cardinals not trading WR

The Arizona Cardinals missed out on receiving some kind of trade compensation for DeAndre Hopkins this offseason. And that's OK.

2 days ago

Cardinals’ James Saxon says RB room is the deepest he’s ever coached