The date was Nov. 30, 2019, and it was the last time Eno Benjamin had suited up for a football game before the running back got a chance to play Saturday night.
Back then, Benjamin was the star at Arizona State, and that day he dominated – 168 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 34 carries – in a victory “against the team down South” he said with a smile.
His long-awaited follow-up was not nearly as important, a preseason game for the Cardinals against the Cowboys. His performance wasn’t the same, 50 yards rushing and a touchdown on five carries. But for a player who had spent his rookie season inactive in each of the 16 regular-season games, and one that because of the pandemic didn’t even have preseason games, Benjamin had a big smile under his mask once the Cards had captured a 19-16 win.
Last season, “I kind of took it more as a redshirt year,” Benjamin said. “Mentally I’m just coming back more prepared. Physically as well.”
Chase Edmonds and James Conner will be the top two running backs. Benjamin is battling Jonathan Ward – who suffered an ankle injury against the Cowboys – for the No. 3 back on the depth chart.
Ward was undrafted in 2020. Benjamin was a seventh-round pick. Without a preseason, it was Ward who ended up higher on the depth chart because of his ability on special teams.
“We’ve always known what he can do when the ball is in his hands,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He’s a dynamic runner, has great vision, great feet, exceptional for the position. Last year was unfortunate for him that he didn’t get those preseason reps but he’s done a really nice job in camp. (He is) much more focused, much more dialed in and is playing at a high level.”