Eno Benjamin ready to audition for Cardinals’ backup RB job

May 24, 2022, 8:05 AM
Arizona Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin (26) runs past San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufan...

Arizona Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin (26) runs past San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga, left, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick to score during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Eno Benjamin enters his third NFL season getting his first taste of standard organized team activities.

The seventh-round pick in 2020 has been through it like other players who entered the NFL during the pandemic, but he made enough headway despite all the accelerated offseasons to earn 34 carries last season for the Arizona Cardinals.

Now with Arizona losing its regular starting running back Chase Edmonds in free agency, Benjamin has a chance to show he’s come a long way in his first two pro seasons.

“My job here is just to go in and, now, day-by-day doing what I can do to get better and do what I need to do to be on the field alongside James (Conner) and whoever they put on the field,” he told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Monday.

“This is the opportunity and this is where it starts.”

Benjamin finished last season with 118 rushing yards (3.5 yards per carry) and one highlight-reel touchdown that included removing 49ers cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick from his path to the end zone in a Nov. 7 win.

It was a significant turn because Benjamin found himself buried on the depth chart as a constant inactive during his rookie season.

While undrafted rookie Jonathan Ward earned an active role two years ago, Benjamin appeared to pull up even with the fellow running back in 2021.

That duo will compete for playing time with sixth-round pick Keaontay Ingram and others behind Conner, who re-signed with Arizona after leading the team with 752 rushing yards and 375 receiving yards last season. Conner enters as the clear No. 1 option in the backfield.

For Benjamin, this isn’t the first time he’s had to wait his turn before a breakout season. The Arizona State product joined the Sun Devils as a highly rated freshman but sat behind older backs in Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage before taking the starting role as a sophomore.

“Everything really is just slowing down. (Running backs coach James Saxon) talks about it quite a bit, as far as how much things have changed since I was a rookie with the COVID year, how I had to learn versus what’s going on now — this is my first time seeing all the rookies on the field during OTAs and all of that,” Benjamin said Monday.

“I would say the biggest part (of improving) is probably not thinking, just going out there and knowing what to do, being confident in what to do.”

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