CARDINALS CORNER

Eno Benjamin logged 1 offensive snap vs. Rams ahead of surprise release

Nov 14, 2022, 4:59 PM | Updated: Nov 15, 2022, 11:48 am
Arizona Cardinals RB Eno Benjamin (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)...
Arizona Cardinals RB Eno Benjamin (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — Over the course of training camp and a good portion of the regular season, running back Eno Benjamin had been a bright spot on an otherwise underachieving Arizona Cardinals team.

After wowing those in attendance with his clear step forward this offseason, Benjamin was able to show off his improvement under the lights as a complementary option to bullying back James Conner.

And when the starter went down, it was Benjamin who took over the lead role for three games, highlighted by 113 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in Week 7.

But after seeing at least five touches a game through the first nine weeks, Benjamin exited the team’s victory against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday without a carry, catch or target.

In fact, he logged just one offensive snap, which head coach Kliff Kingsbury on Monday chalked up to wanting to get Conner the bulk of the carries in his second game back from a ribs injury.

Not long after Kingsbury spoke with the media, though, it was evident Benjamin had fell out of favor with the Cardinals with his outright release from the franchise. No reason given by the team or reported from the insiders. Just cut.

This doesn’t seem like a roster-manipulating move, either, with Benjamin likely to get picked up by another team. His time in the desert appears officially over.

A look at some of the other snap counts that stood out in Arizona’s win over Los Angeles:

OG Lecitus Smith: 68 offensive snaps (100%)

Despite a tough Rams pass rush led by future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald, the rookie turned in another solid performance in place of the injured Will Hernandez.

Earning his first NFL start on Sunday, Smith played every offensive snap in the victory. It’s a new career mark for the lineman, who was coming off 54 snaps (86%) in the Cardinals’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

“Whoever’s number was called had to find a way to perform,” offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum said Monday. “We knew the task at hand, we knew the defense we were going up against, we knew the issues that we had on the offensive line and we knew we had to work together, and we had to work together fast without a lot of time on task.

“(Lecitus) played like a rookie, but at the end of the day, he did a really good job against a very good passer.”

RB James Conner: 65 offensive snaps (96%)

The starting running back was on the field for just about every offensive snap on Sunday, setting a new season mark in L.A. It’s the highest percentage of snaps recorded for the back since Week 1 (72%).

Those reps translated to 21 carries for 69 yards and two touchdowns, his second and third of the year. No other Cardinals player saw more than four rushing attempts throughout the afternoon, a clear sign Arizona had planned on serving up a heaping helping of Conner.

“We talked about James getting the full share if you will,” Kingsbury said Monday. “He’d been banged up, had the ribs (injury), and it was basically one of those deals where it was time to give him the starting running back reps.

“I thought he played at a high level and got better as the game went on. It allowed him to get in a rhythm and he did what we needed him to do.”

TE Trey McBride: 62 offensive snaps (91%)

After being on the field for over half of the team’s offensive reps (52%) and posting the most snaps (34) of his career in Week 7, the rookie nearly double that mark in L.A.

He finished the matchup with one catch for seven yards.

Unfortunately, the added playing time came at a cost, with starting tight end Zach Ertz leaving the Week 10 matchup early on with a what would reportedly end up being a season-ending knee injury.

Even with the likely practice squad elevation of veteran tight end Maxx Williams, McBride should be in store for a hefty workload moving forward.

WR A.J. Green: 30 offensive snaps (44%)

Green saw his workload shoot back up in Week 10 after recording just one snap a game prior.

And while he snagged just two catches, they were integral in the team’s win, especially his six-yard touchdown reception that had shades of Cincinnati A.J.

“He’s never lost confidence in himself,” Kingsbury said Monday. “It’s just one of those things that comes up every now and then. For whatever reason, it hadn’t worked in his favor, but he’s one of the best receivers that has played in this league in a long time.

“He still has a lot of really good football in front of him, so it was good to see him get those plays in. I think (quarterback Colt McCoy) has a ton of confidence in him knowing what to do, being where he should be, and he’s obviously a big target. He’s a matchup problem for those smaller corners.”

RB Keaontay Ingram: Five offensive snaps (7%)

Ingram is on a crash course to being the unquestioned No. 2 option behind Conner now with Benjamin released and Darrel Williams injured.

The rookie logged just one carry on Sunday for five yards.

It’ll be interesting to see how his role moving forward in an offense that thrives with a pass-catching running back to pair alongside Conner.

S Budda Baker: 48 defensive snaps (80%)

This one doesn’t need much explanation.

Baker went from out to practicing to playing in the matter of days after suffering an ankle injury that was expected to sideline the safety for multiple weeks.

He didn’t just provide an emotion boost, either, sealing the Cardinals’ victory with a fourth-quarter interception to go along with four tackles.

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