The smile never comes off Benjamin’s face, even now. When he was a rookie, that hit a little different when the football wasn’t coming together.
Running the football, Benjamin could do. The other stuff, like knowing where pass rushers might be coming from when pass blocking, was a much harder task. And after being a star running as a Sun Devil, he wasn’t exactly equipped to play special teams either.
“The mental part is the biggest difference,” Benjamin said. “Being able to stay focused for so long.”
In college, he said football was only three or four hours a day. In the NFL it is a more-than-eight-hours-daily job.
“It’s being consistent and them knowing what they are going to get from me on an every-day basis,” Benjamin added.
Playing behind Chase Edmonds, an intelligent player who knew all aspects of the job, didn’t help. But with Edmonds departing as a free agent, the opportunity was there and, despite the signing of Darrel Williams and the drafting of Keaontay Ingram, is Benjamin’s job to lose as James Conner’s tag-teammate.
“I’m not sure we can replace Chase like that,” Kingsbury said. (But) I’ve been really impressed with Eno every time he’s had a chance to run the football and he’s really improved in the pass game.”
Benjamin’s career stats won’t draw attention. After “redshirting” 2020, he played in only nine games last season, gaining 118 yards on 34 carries, with six catches for 42 yards. He did have a highlight-worthy touchdown run in San Francisco while bulling over former teammate Dre Kirkpatrick, but what has caught Kingsbury’s eye is what was done away from game day.
Maybe Benjamin would’ve been aided in his NFL career had he gotten away from the area where he was a college star, but he disagrees. In fact, he said it has helped.
“The people that are rooting for me is another reason I go so hard because a lot of people know what I am capable of,” Benjamin said. “Now it’s up to me to show that.”
If Benjamin ever had the same thought as his coach – that he wouldn’t make it as a Cardinal – that’s gone now.
“My confidence,” Benjamin said, “is through the roof.”