Just a few short weeks ago, running back Eno Benjamin looked like he could become a legitimate contributor in the Kliff Kingsbury led Arizona Cardinals offense.
Stepping in for injured starter James Conner, the former seventh-round pick put together a solid three weeks of production for the Cardinals.
Through weeks 5-8, Benjamin ran for 154 yards on 35 carries, averaging 4.4 yards-per-carry including two touchdowns. The former Arizona State back also showed promise as a pass catcher, hauling in 10 catches on 12 targets.
However, when Conner returned from injury week 9, Benjamin’s snap count decreased to just 27% after being the primary back in a Cardinals offense that doesn’t run the ball much to begin with.
After getting just one touch in the Cardinals' week 10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, Benjamin reportedly had a verbal confrontation with an assistant coach following the win. Benjamin’s agent denied the report, despite multiple sources citing Benjamin’s displeasure about playing time.
The Texans (1-7-1), who are currently the worst team in the NFL, sit atop the waiver wire and have the first pick of any player placed on waivers.
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t get into specifics about waiving the second-year pro.
"We’re always going to do what’s best for the organization,” Kingsbury said Wednesday. "Coaches want to do the best job they can by playing the best players they can and maximizing the personnel. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong but you have to ultimately get on the same page and if you don’t like your situation you got to work harder and do right by the team."
After claiming Benjamin on Tuesday, the running back and special teams contributor took the field for the first time with his new team Thursday morning.
Texans head coach Lovie Smith, who recruited Benjamin out of high school while coaching at Illinois, is looking forward to seeing what the young back can do.
“When players become available that we think that can help us, and that’s the case with Eno — good football player added to the mix,” Smith said. “He was a good player in high school, good player in college, has been a good pro, and we’re hoping he’ll give us something.”
Smith said Wednesday that the team has to prepare as if Benjamin wouldn’t play Sunday, since it was already the middle of the week when he arrived.
Benjamin was a fan favorite, respected and held in high regard by teammates and coaches before things quickly soured in Arizona. Hoping for a fresh start in Houston, Benjamin has already immersed himself into the playbook.
“I’m kind of just going through it, just doing whatever I can do to be ready,” Benjamin said.
As far as being acclimated enough to the offense or special teams to contribute Sunday against the Commanders, Benjamin said he’ll have to wait and see.
"If I feel like I’m ready," Benjamin said. "If my number is called, I’ll go out there and do what I do to the best of my ability."
While the Texans have desperately needed a complimentary back up to Dameon Pierce, it remains to be seen how quickly Benjamin can grasp the Texans system and contribute as a viable option behind Pierce.
Shaun Bijani has spent the last 16 years covering the Houston sports scene for SportsRadio 610. Follow him on Twitter @ShaunBijani.