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Who Is Left To Carry The Load At Running Back For Cardinals?

Benjamin, Ingram healthy but Kingsbury juggling roster

Eno Benjamin breaks through on a run during the Cardinals' game against the Eagles.
Eno Benjamin breaks through on a run during the Cardinals' game against the Eagles.

Eno Benjamin smiled, because he knew exactly when the last time was when he carried a heavy workload in a game.

It was against college rival University of Arizona in late November of 2019. The Arizona State running back carried the ball 34 times -- for 168 yards and two touchdowns – in a win.

That's as many carries as Benjamin had all of 2021. It's four more than he's had this season, in his new role as RB2. And 34 more than he had as a rookie, when he was inactive every game.

"I feel like as a runner, I don't take a lot of big hits," Benjamin said. "I get tackled, but I don't take a lot of big hits. I'll be ready for whatever."

Benjamin won't get 34 carries Sunday in Seattle. But he likely will have more than his NFL career-high of nine in a game. The Cardinals need him.

Jonathan Ward is on IR. Darrel Williams hurt his knee, and while coach Kliff Kingsbury said "we will see" on Williams, NFL Network reported he won't play. Starter James Conner, suffering from a ribs injury, is technically day-to-day, but looming after Sunday would be a quick turnaround to a Thursday game against the Saints.

To bolster the backend, the Cardinals added veterans Corey Clement and Ty'Son Williams to the practice squad. But the hope is that Conner will be available, and that Benjamin and rookie Keaontay Ingram can take the opportunity.

"We wanted to make sure we had our bases covered and brought in some guys who have played and brought in some experience," Kingsbury said.

The Cardinals, statistically, have run the ball well this season. They are averaging 4.2 yards an attempt, and their 572 yards on the ground – at 114 yards a game, behind last year's pace of 122 – is better than what the Cardinals have allowed (487).

"I thought we ran the ball really well last game," Murray said. "We just didn't finish when we needed to. At the end of the day you can't kick field goals. That'll get you beat. Kicking field goals in the red zone will get you beat, so we've got to score touchdowns."

Conner is still the main back, and he looked the best he has this season against the Eagles. Williams has looked good in his limited work, including rumbling for a first down on a fake punt last week.

The first move will be to activate Ingram for the first time. Ingram has been inactive thus far, and his use would likely be limited behind Benjamin – or even just special teams if Conner can play.

"We kept five (running backs) for a reason," Kingsbury said. "He was very impressive in camp and preseason and has continued to impress us with his preparation and how he's treated each day —even on scout team."

Benjamin has been impressive too, for weeks. Now his window might open, against a defense that has struggled this season. Benjamin is averaging 4.5 yards a carry, with 136 yards on his 30 attempts and one physical touchdown run last week.

"(Eno) did it in college," Kingsbury said. "Obviously, he's at a different level, but he's worked hard. If this is his opportunity, we have all the faith in the world that he'll go out and give us everything he's got, and I've been impressed with what he's done."

The top images taken by the Cardinals team photographer during the 2022 Week 5 regular season game against the Philadelphia Eagles, presented by Earnhardt Auto Centers.

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