The No. 1 stood out like a sore thumb in the snap counts from the Cardinals game against the Rams Sunday on the line that credited running back Eno Benjamin with one offensive snap in the game.
His lack of use was apparently made clear when Benjamin was shockingly placed on waivers Monday with national reports of the decision occurring mere minutes after coach Kliff Kingsbury had his weekly conference with local media that is followed by his appearance on the team’s radio flagship, Arizona Sports 98.7.
Once again, the local media that is present every day at the team’s Tempe training facility was hung out to dry with not only there being no mention by Kingsbury of the impending release, but after he avoided a question wondering about Benjamin’s lack of use the day before.
Kingsbury said, “We talked about James (Conner) getting the full share if you will. 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 the rhythm and he did what we needed him to do.”
That’s all well and good, but it has little to do with Benjamin playing only one snap. Obviously, there was more to the decision to play Conner a heavy load of 96 percent, which in the past has actually resulted in him being injured more.
Previously this season, when Conner wasn’t inactive, which was for three games, or didn’t leave early, which happened twice, the job-share percentage worked like this:
Week 1: Conner 72, Benjamin 22
Week 3: Conner 60, Benjamin 27, Darrel Williams 17
Week 4: Conner 66, Williams 21, Benjamin 14
Week 9: Conner 71, Benjamin 27, Keaontay Ingram 2
Week 10: Conner 96, Ingram 7, Benjamin 1
In Week 6-8 when Conner was inactive, Benjamin played 87, 73 and 74 percent of the snaps. Prior to Sunday, he was the team leader with 299 yards on 70 carries (4.3 average) and two touchdowns. He also had 24 receptions for 184 yards (7.7 average). Conner passed him Sunday and he now has 82 attempts for 314 yards (3.8 average) and three scores.
By clearly choosing not to address the topic, it only allows for speculation for why the decision was made rather than get in front of it. Now, Kingsbury can’t be asked about it until Wednesday at the earliest.
Benjamin’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told gophnx.com that the decision “was a big surprise. Didn’t anticipate it.” He added that there has been “a lot of interest” and believes he will likely be claimed on waivers Tuesday.
Kingsbury was also less than forthcoming on the issue of tight end Zach Ertz’s knee injury that was suffered on his ninth snap Sunday. The national report of Ertz being out for the rest of the season circulated at the same time as the Benjamin story.
When asked for an update on Ertz, Kingsbury said, “We’re still working through all that. We should know something by the end of the day or tomorrow.” He told 98.7 Ertz will probably miss next Monday’s game against the 49ers, but held out hope for his return later in the season.
Unfortunately, it’s all a part of a pattern.
Wednesday, the first practice in a regular preparation week, is the day when media can see who isn’t practicing and are then able to ask Kingsbury about them after practice. That’s especially important for players with injuries that occurred in the previous game that might not be known.
Last week, the Cardinals had a closed walkthrough on Wednesday. Thus, when Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray spoke to the media afterward, no one knew that Murray had suffered a hamstring injury three days before against Seattle so they couldn’t be asked about it.
The information was on the injury report distributed later that day, but Murray was done talking for the week and Kingsbury wouldn’t meet with the media again until Friday. The national television audience learned more about the situation on Hard Knocks that night.
That made it less than surprising that when Kingsbury was asked what there is left to say about safety Budda Baker’s return to the field Sunday, he said, “You’ve just got to tune in on Wednesday, man. Check out that show. I’m sure there’ll be a full recap of that.”
There were some raised eyebrows when Rashaad Coward got the start at left guard Sunday. He ended up with 71 percent of the snaps to the other 29 percent from Cody Ford, who was dealing with COVID issues last week. Josh Jones started for D.J. Humphries at left tackle and rookie Lecitus Smith played every snap at right guard in his first NFL start.
Kingsbury said, “I thought they battled. To see some of the runs that we had late in the game when we really needed it, particularly down near the end zone was big time and that’s not easy to do. (We) patch-worked it together. You’ve got to give (line) coach (Sean) Kugler and (assistant line) coach (Brian) Natkin a lot of credit. The competitive spirit of that group yesterday was really impressive in going against one of the better D-lines and one of the best football players (Aaron Donald) in the history of the game.”
The last four games have looked this for wide receiver A.J. Green: DNP Saints, 47 percent vs. Vikings, 1 snap vs. Seahawks, 44 percent Sunday. Wide receiver Robbie Anderson played only 12 percent of the snaps after playing 83 percent the week before. Asked Monday if the reduced snaps occurred to get him more comfortable with the offense, Kingsbury said, “We’re going to continue to do that and try to maximize him as well. He’s got speed to burn, (and he’s) a talented wide receiver that’s been uber productive in this league. We’ve got to find ways to use them all and I felt like we had a good mix going yesterday. Hopefully, we can continue to do that and make sure that each guy is getting a chance to show what they can do.” … Guard Wyatt Davis, claimed on waivers last week from the Saints, played one snap against the Rams.
With cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. out with a back injury, Marco Wilson played every snap in the game, Antonio Hamilton played 90 percent and Trayvon Mullen Jr. contributed 42 percent. … Safety Budda Baker wasn’t on the field for his usual snaps because he was playing with a high-ankle sprain, but he played 80 percent. Special-teams standout Chris Banjo played the other 20 percent. … Defensive lineman Trysten Hill, claimed on waivers from the Cowboys Nov. 2, played 25 percent of the defensive snaps against the Rams.
Charting the snaps (snaps/percentage; starters in bold)
*Indicates player that did not play from scrimmage, but participated on special teams
OFFENSE (68 snaps, 21 players)
Quarterbacks: Colt McCoy (66/97), Trace McSorley (2/3)
Inactive: Kyler Murray (injured)
Running backs: James Conner (65/96), Keaontay Ingram (5/7), Eno Benjamin (1/1)
Reserve/injured: Jonathan Ward (eligible to return), Darrel Williams (eligible to return)
Wide receivers: Rondale Moore (66/97), DeAndre Hopkins (64/94), A.J. Green (30/44), Robbie Anderson (8/12), Greg Dortch (2/3)
Reserve/injured: Marquise Brown (eligible to return), Antoine Wesley
Tight ends: Trey McBride (62/91), Stephen Anderson (25/37), Zach Ertz (9/13)
Offensive linemen: LT Josh Jones (68/100), C Billy Price (68/100), RG Lecitus Smith (68/100), RT Kelvin Beachum (67/99), LG Rashaad Coward (48/71), LG Cody Ford (20/29), G Sean Harlow (3/4), G Wyatt Davis (1/1)
Inactive: LT D.J. Humphries (injured), G Max Garcia (injured). Reserve/injured: C Rodney Hudson (eligible to return), RG Will Hernandez (eligible to return), LG Justin Pugh (eligible to return), T Josh Miles, G Marquis Hayes
DEFENSE (60 snaps, 19 players)
Defensive linemen: DE J.J. Watt (44/73), DE Zach Allen (42/70), NT Leki Fotu (20/33), DE Jonathan Ledbetter (17/28), NT Trysten Hill (15/25)
Reserve/injured: NT Rashard Lawrence (eligible to return)
Linebackers: ILB Zaven Collins (60/100), ILB Isaiah Simmons (60/100), OLB Markus Golden (47/78), ILB Ben Niemann (41/68), OLB Myjai Sanders (21/35), OLB Cameron Thomas (20/33), OLB Victor Dimukeje (8/13), OLB Dennis Gardeck (6/10)
Did not play: ILB *Ezekiel Turner, ILB *Tanner Vallejo, ILB *Kamu Grugier-Hill. Inactive: OLB Jesse Luketa. Reserve/injured ILB Nick Vigil (eligible to return)
Defensive backs: CB Marco Wilson (60/100), S Jalen Thompson (60/100), CB Antonio Hamilton (54/90), S Budda Baker (48/80), CB Trayvon Mullen Jr. (25/42), S Chris Banjo (12/20)
Did not play: S *Charles Washington, CB *Christian Matthew. Inactive: CB Byron Murphy Jr. (injured)
SPECIAL TEAMS (28 snaps, 32 players)
LB Tanner Vallejo (23/82), LB Ezekiel Turner (23/82), LB Dennis Gardeck (23/82), TE Stephen Anderson (20/71), LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (20/71), LB Victor Dimukeje (19/68), CB Christian Matthew (19/68), S Charles Washington (19/68), S Chris Banjo (15/54), K Tristan Vizcaino (11/39), P Andy Lee (10/36), LS Aaron Brewer (10/36), TE Trey McBride (9/32), RB Keaontay Ingram (9/32), DT Leki Fotu (8/29), WR/RS Greg Dortch (6/21), LB Ben Niemann (6/21), T Kelvin Beachum (5/18), G Cody Ford (5/18), T Josh Jones (5/18), G Sean Harlow (5/18), G Lecitus Smith (5/18), G Rashaad Coward (5/18), CB Trayvon Mullen Jr. (5/18), RB/KOR Eno Benjamin (4/14), DE Zach Allen (3/11), DE Jonathan Ledbetter (3/11), LB Zaven Collins (3/11), LB Cameron Thomas (3/11), CB Antonio Hamilton (3/11), CB Marco Wilson (3/11), WR A.J. Green (1/4)
Inactive: K Matt Prater (illness)
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