Arizona Cardinals running back depth tested with three injured on Sunday

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The window of opportunity to speak to Arizona Cardinals running back Eno Benjamin after the team’s heartbreaking 20-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday was brief.

But a moment between head coach and player speaks volumes. Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury went to the players’ locker room at State Farm Stadium after the game to check on injured running back James Conner and shake hands with Benjamin in thanks for carrying the charge in second period for an exhausted corps of running backs.

When the game started, the Cardinals had Conner, Benjamin, Darrel Williams and special teams contributor Jonathan Ward active as running backs. In the end, Benjamin, the former Arizona State standout who carved out a solid role on the Cardinals’ offense, was the only one still able to play. And he too had to empty it.

“It was a little tricky. I thought Eno did a good job, man,” Kingsbury said. “(Williams) was cramping the whole second half, really, and just stayed there and made and kept making plays. Too bad James and Darrel got hurt, but Eno stepped in and I’m really proud of that effort.”

Benjamin had eight carries for 25 yards, but 11 of them went for a touchdown that tied the game at 17 in the fourth quarter. He added three catches for 28 yards.

Conner had 55 rushing yards at halftime, but did not play in the second half due to a rib injury. In the locker room, he moved slowly and breathed heavily.

Conner had a 17-yard run Sunday that was his longest of the season and has one touchdown in five games. Kingsbury said Conner was fine after the game and medical staff were being careful with him.

Williams took a straight snap in punt formation and converted a fourth down in the second quarter. But a knee injury forced him out of the game and Ward suffered a hamstring injury which he couldn’t play.

“Eno stepped up, (Darrel Williams) stepped up. If they were to go down, we would have brought in some other guys, but they did a hell of a job I think,” Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said.

The severity of the three running backs’ injuries was not immediately known after Sunday’s game, and their availability for the week is uncertain. Benjamin and rookie Keaontay Ingram are the only uninjured running backs on the 53-man roster, which could force the Cardinals to sign a free agent to provide insurance and depth for next Sunday’s key division game with the Seattle Seahawks on the road.

Ingram has yet to appear in a regular season game, although he has run well in preseason games.

Benjamin entered Sunday’s game second on the team in rushing yards and has faced the Seahawks twice in his career, once at Seattle’s tumultuous Lumen Field.

Ertz on the Eagles

Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz finished with six catches for 48 yards on the day against the Eagles, the team he spent the first eight-plus seasons of his NFL career with. With his first catch of the game, he became the second active tight end in the NFL to record a reception against all 32 teams in the league.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t want it,” Ertz said of a win over his former team. “But at the end of the day when I went there, I didn’t expect to play those guys besides seeing some familiar faces. It was like a normal football game.

“The only thing that surprised me a bit, or struck me a bit, was seeing a bunch of green ’86’ jerseys in the stands. It was pretty special,” he said. he adds.

Contact Jose Romero at [email protected]. Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM.

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