the arizona cardinals they are dealing with a running back injury crisis and are struggling to adjust their game plan heading into Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. Veteran running back and high-volume contributor James Conner is sidelined with a rib injury and is expected to miss this game and perhaps longer, according to league sources.
The Cardinals are also expected to play without backup running back Darrel Williams due to a knee injury, according to sources. Additionally, they placed running back Jonathan Ward on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.
What will the Cardinals do without James Conner?
Due to those injuries, the Cardinals held a running back workout, eventually signing Ty’Son Williams and Corey Clement to the practice squad.
Not counting Conner, a 6-foot-1, 233-pound former Pittsburgh Steelers third-round pick who has rushed for 200 yards and a touchdown on 54 carries after rushing for 752 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, represents a blow to the Cardinals’ offense.
The Cardinals are formulating their plan on how to proceed as a running back against Seattle.
A big part of that plan involves Eno Benjamin, who has rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown this season averaging 4.5 per carry and has gained 254 career yards with two touchdowns. He has 12 receptions this season for 97 yards.
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Benjamin, a former seventh-round draft pick out of Arizona State, is a capable slick running back at 5-foot-9, 207 pounds.
The Seahawks, by the way, have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, including 194 yards of total offense by New Orleans Saints’ Alvin Kamara and a 108-yard game by Detroit running back Jamaal Williams. Lions. They’ve allowed at least 100 scrimmage yards to every running back they’ve faced this season.
Rookie running back Keaontay Ingram, a sixth-round draft pick out of USC, is expected to be active this week.
After transferring from the University of Texas, Ingram led team with 911 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry and caught 22 passes for 156 yards in 10 games and seven starts while dealing with a rib injury last season.
In three seasons with the Longhorns, the former Mr. Texas Football finalist rushed for 1,811 yards on 339 carries with 11 touchdowns and caught 67 passes for 515 yards and 6 touchdowns.
(Below analysis provided by PFN Fantasy and Betting Analyst Ian Warton)
It’s already been a tough season for fantasy coaches. While it’s no surprise Conner regressed from his 15-touchdown season from 2021, he’s averaging just 60.6 total yards on 13.6 touches. Last year, Conner averaged 16 touches for 75 yards.
Losing touches and yards is one thing, but the drop from nearly one touchdown per game to one in five is devastating for managers. Conner is legitimately a cutoff candidate for deeper fantasy rosters. This rib injury only adds to doubts about his roster value, and opens the door for backup Eno Benjamin to steal plays over the course of the rest of the season.
Arizona’s decision to re-sign Conner after a poor season was always questionable. His offensive line has been a problem for years, so it’s unlikely they’ve ever sustained a successful running game regardless of the back. Conner has averaged 3.7 yards per carry the past two years, so it’s not like he’ll be a particularly good running back in 2021.
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With Conner out of Week 6, he’s missing out on a main matchup to finally produce. The Seattle Seahawks have the worst rushing defense in the NFL, allowing the second-most carries and touchdowns, the most yards and the fifth-most yards per carry. They rank 25th in ground defense. EPAreinforcing again how much this unit is fighting.
Volume hasn’t been a major issue for Conner’s fantasy production as much as lack of efficiency. Playing Seattle could theoretically have fixed that problem. If Conner got the 16 carries he totaled in Week 3 or the 18 he had in Week 4, it’s possible he’d have an RB2 performance. The score would be the icing on the cake instead of its main value.
If Conner loses even half of his touches to Benjamin, his value is directly related to red zone carries. Because the Cardinals’ offense has struggled so much, Conner only had 16 yards on eight carries. He ranks 47th in red zone scoring among running backs.
Should you start Eno Benjamin against the Seahawks in week 6?
In addition to being without Conner, Darrel Williams is also expected to be out this week. That makes Benjamin the clear RB1 against the Seahawks. Available in 44% of Yahoo leagues and 78% of ESPN leagues, there’s time to add a potential impact Flex option to your roster right now. But don’t expect that to continue.
Benjamin has played sparingly in the NFL, carrying the ball 64 times for 254 yards and two touchdowns since joining the team in 2021. His backup will be sixth-round rookie Keaontay Ingram from USC. If Conner is out a significant amount of time and Benjamin isn’t impressive at the opportunity for him, he’ll consider taking Ingram off waivers.
It is certainly possible that we will see Benjamin take this job and not look back. Seattle’s defense allowed 194 total yards to Alvin Kamara and 108 yards to Jamaal Williams. Every starting running back they’ve faced this season has reached the 100-yard mark, which makes Benjamin especially attractive as a starting option.