When the Houston Texans signed Eno Benjamin off the waiver wire on Tuesday afternoon, there was some head-scratching around the NFL and among local media. There’s a couple of reasons why the claim didn’t make a ton of sense at first glance.
Right at the top of the list is that the Texans are now carrying four running backs on its active roster. Eno Benjamin has jumped right to third on the depth chart as of now. But if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, he won’t spend much time on the bench in the coming weeks.
In a rather limited role for the Arizona Cardinals, the 7th-round pick in the 2020 draft has actually been fairly impressive. He’s got 299 yards on 70 carries (4.3 YPC) and run for two touchdowns. That includes a 45-yard dash.
Those numbers already put Eno Benjamin solidly in second place on the Houston Texans’ rushing leaders behind only rookie phenom Dameon Pierce and his 772 yards. That’s why it’s not hard to see just how the newest pickup makes quite a bit of sense.
Halfway through the current campaign, Pierce already has 165 carries. His workload had been relatively light to start the year but as he’s made it clear that he’s one of the best rookies in the NFL, he’s been getting more touches.
Pierce wasn’t anything close to a workhorse in his college days. When he was with the Florida Gators, the most touches he had in any one season was 123 in 2020 (106 carries, 17 receptions). He’s already easily surpassed that in 2022.
If he continues on his current pace, he’ll have somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 touches in carries and receptions. The rookie would basically be equaling his entire college career’s workload. In a season where it appears the Houston Texans have a very good shot of earning the first overall draft pick next spring.
The fact that Pierce has been a surprise means that Nick Caserio and company are having to plan on the fly. The team’s current backup running back, Rex Burkhead, isn’t the kind of guy that will be able to take the load off of the rookie runner. Eno Benjamin, on the other hand, can carry more of the load and give Pierce a chance to get a bit more rest.
The master plan for this season from the Houston Texans seems to be building for the future. Making sure the rookie runningback doesn’t run out of steam or even worse, get injured because of overwork certainly fits into that plan.