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Improvement Makes Cards All About The (Eno) Benjamin

Notes: Running back impressing; Team only has walkthrough Wednesday

Running back Eno Benjamin is congratulated by teammate Byron Murphy Jr. after Benjamin's touchdown on Sunday in San Francisco.
Running back Eno Benjamin is congratulated by teammate Byron Murphy Jr. after Benjamin's touchdown on Sunday in San Francisco.

Eno Benjamin impressed enough at Arizona State for the Cardinals to take a chance on the running back in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

But his rookie season was anything but successful.

"He was hanging on by a thread the entire year," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "But he came back a different guy from day one of training camp, and you could tell there was a different level of focus and different attention to detail.

"The physicality he has shown on special teams has been tremendous, the physicality in the run game. You can see the team is really proud of how far he's come. It's a great story so far."

After being inactive for every game last year, Benjamin had an exit meeting with GM Steve Keim following the season's end. It created a new perspective for the running back and led to progression on the field. Obtaining constant advice from veteran teammates didn't hurt, either.

The opportunity Benjamin had longed for arrived last week at San Francisco when Chase Edmonds injured his ankle, leaving Benjamin to split carries with James Conner. Benjamin had nine carries, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, for 39 rushing yards – the same amount of total rushing yards the 49ers had for the game.

His most electrifying play came when he trucked former Cardinals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick en route for a 21-yard touchdown, his first in 2021.

After the play, Benjamin's phone blew up, but he made it a priority to call his mother before doing anything else. Benjamin said while the moment was great, he didn't gloss over the importance of preparing for the moment.

"It was just a great feeling all-around," Benjamin said. "But I would say it all started in practice and working for the opportunity, and when it presented itself, being able to take off with it."

CARDINALS DOWNGRADE TO WALKTHROUGH

The Cardinals didn't conduct a full practice Wednesday, a prudent step given the laundry list of injuries the team has had.

Kingsbury had already tweaked practices this year -- he wouldn't get specific -- as an adjustment to what happened to the Cardinals in 2020.

"I don't want to give away our secrets right now, but we definitely made some adjustments at this juncture in our season – to more on Wednesday than anything," Kingsbury said. "Last year, Wednesday was fairly intense throughout the season, and I think the adjustment has helped guys feel more fresh and ready to go when Sunday rolls around."

Kingsbury said the uptick in injuries wouldn't impact how hard the team practices this week, but at the same time, will be wise in doing so. The team is trying to make it to the bye week, which is two weeks away.

"After the bye week, when we're fresh, reenergized, we'll take it from there," Kingsbury said. "But as we kind of have a bunch of injuries mounting, we're going to be smart.

LONG SNAPPER AARON BREWER BREAKS ARM

Kingsbury said long snapper Aaron Brewer suffered a broken arm and will miss "a number of weeks." That was the biggest news on an injury report that never seemed like it would end.

Safety Budda Baker (concussion/knee), offensive lineman Max Garcia (achilles), wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring), running back Chase Edmonds (ankle), wide receiver Rondale Moore (neck/concussion), quarterback Kyler Murray (ankle), defensive lineman Jordan Phillips (groin), offensive lineman Justin Pugh (calf), running back Jonathan Ward (concussion), tight end David Wells (hand), safety James Wiggins (knee) all would not have practiced had the Cards had a normal workout.

Offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum (shin), tight end Darrell Daniels (shoulder), tight end Demetrius Harris (illness), linebacker Jordan Hicks (toe) were listed as limited.

For the Panthers, quarterback Sam Darnold (right shoulder), defensive end Brian Burns (foot), linebacker Frankie Luvu (knee), and cornerback Stantley Thomas-Oliver (toe) did not practice on Wednesday. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin (hand) was limited.

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