Cardinals notebook: RB Eno Benjamin’s evolved play beginning to show

Aug 5, 2021, 4:03 PM
Arizona Cardinals running backs Eno Benjamin (26) and Jonathan Ward (29) run through drills during ...
Arizona Cardinals running backs Eno Benjamin (26) and Jonathan Ward (29) run through drills during training camp Thursday, July 29, 2021, in Glendale. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE — Arizona Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin had to sit and watch his rookie season unfold without being activated for a single game during the regular season in 2020.

Fast forward to 2021, and the former Arizona State Sun Devil is showing improvement in multiple areas. From the confidence and gameplay he’s showing on the field, he knows it.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has taken notice, adding more first-team reps to his plate, while also utilizing him in special teams.

“It’s good to see, I can’t tell you how far he’s come from last training camp to now just the way he’s approaching the game, study habits in the classroom, on the field,” the head coach said Thursday.

“It’s been great to see. We all know he’s dynamic when the ball’s in his hands, but he’s starting to do those other things in pass protection, on special teams that we’ve been waiting to see. I’m excited to watch him in preseason.”

The rusher’s progress just adds to an already strong running backs room led by Chase Edmonds and James Conner, with Jonathan Ward also in the mix.

Christian Kirk being eased back in, Moore exits practice as a precaution 

While wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and linebacker Chandler Jones were given veteran days off Thursday, the Cardinals saw the return of Christian Kirk to the practice field after missing the previous three days due to injury.

But despite being in full uniform, the wide receiver was not a full participant.

It’s all part of the plan for Kingsbury, who remains optimistic on Kirk’s status moving forward.

“We’re just easing him back in,” the head coach said. “If he’s not back by the end of this week, I expect him to be back next week.”

While Kirk was at least back in pads, the same couldn’t be said for A.J. Green, who missed his second straight practice with a minor issue.

And after Rondale Moore was a point of discussion for most of training camp thanks to his play, the rookie’s name was brought up for a different reason after the wide receiver exited practice early.

“I don’t [have any updates]. Just same thing, precautionary, it didn’t sound major,” Kingsbury said. “But he’s one of the guys that probably got more reps that we would have liked to based upon some other injuries, so I don’t think it’s anything serious.”

Kingbsury: Isabella, Moore vying for different roster spots

The Arizona Cardinals receivers room looks a whole lot different than it did in 2020.

While Larry Fitzgerald remains a free agent, the Cardinals still have more than enough mouths to feed with offseason signing A.J. Green and second-round pick Rondale Moore now on the roster.

The pair of wide receivers have had their respective moments in camp, but both missed time Thursday. Their absences provided wide receivers like Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson the chance at extended looks with the first team, with the former having arguably his best day in camp so far.

But with Moore’s impressive play thus far in camp, where exactly does Isabella fall in Kingsbury’s pecking order?

“I don’t think at that position you can have enough speed,” the head coach said. “Andy’s a guy who really majored in playing outside in college. He can play inside as well.

“And then Rondale is pretty much the opposite. He’s more of an inside guy, punt returner, kick returner, trick play guy, get the ball to him in space in as many ways as you can. I don’t think that they’re vying for the same roster spot.”

As for Johnson, the wide receiver looked sharp in his route running and made up for an earlier drop during 7-on-7s with a solid grab on “third down.”

And with four of what Kingsbury believes will be five or six wide receiver spots on the roster seemingly accounted for by Hopkins, Green, Kirk and Moore, every catch or play is that much more meaningful. Especially when continuing to build trust with quarterback Kyler Murray.

“He showed us a lot last year, I think he really came along, had some clutch catches in big moments,” Kingsbury said.

“He’s playing inside and outside now, so he’s just gotta keep doing what he’s doing. He’s a guy that the quarterback has a lot of confidence in and that always helps.”

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Cardinals notebook: RB Eno Benjamin’s evolved play beginning to show