Benny Cunningham

Cardinals To Work Out Jay Ajayi

The Cardinals will meet with running back Jay Ajayi, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The running back will take a physical and audition for the club on Monday and Tuesday.

Before his injury-shortened 2018, Ajayi posted two strong seasons. In 2016, he earned his first career Pro Bowl nod as he averaged 4.9 yards per carry for the Dolphins. In 2017, a midseason trade sent him to the Eagles, where he averaged 5.8 yards per tote off of 70 tries and captured his first ever Super Bowl ring.

Unfortunately, that career progress was halted by a torn ACL, but Ajayi is now healthy and ready to show the NFL what he can do. For the Cardinals, he could be a useful fill-in amidst multiple injuries at the position. D.J. Foster was ruled out against the Giants and star David Johnson is pushing through an ankle injury of his own.

The advanced metrics indicate that Ajayi is among the league’s better running backs when healthy, so he could provide a major midseason boost to the Cards or any team in need of backfield help. After Sunday’s win over the Giants, the Cardinals are 3-3-1 as they get ready for a Sunday showdown with the Saints. When they take on New Orleans, they might have one of the league’s more intriguing RB talents in uniform, behind Johnson.

The Cardinals are also taking a look at Spencer Ware and Benny Cunningham, Rapoport hears (Twitter links). Ware was initially set to play for the Colts this year, but wound up on PUP with a toe injury. Ware disagreed with the team’s decision and was ultimately released in September. The Jaguars cut the former Rams and Bears back midway through training camp, and his in-season workouts thus far have not led to any contract agreements.

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NFL Workout Updates: 10/16/19

Today’s NFL workout updates, all courtesy of Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle:

Baltimore Ravens

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Redskins

Giants Work Out RBs

Following the injury to Saquon Barkley, the Giants worked out running backs Fozzy Whittaker and Zach Zenner, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The club also took a look at Benny Cunningham, as The Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson tweets.

As Barkley rests up from a high ankle sprain, the club is preparing for anywhere between 4-8 weeks without him. In the interim, Wayne Gallman will take over as the club’s top tailback. The good news is that the team is not planning on putting Barkley on injured reserve at this time, which leaves open the possibility that he will be able to return inside of two months.

At this moment, Gallman’s only backup is Elijhaa Penny, a former UDFA who previously spent time with the Cardinals. Last year, Penny tallied eight catches for 50 yards plus seven totes for 25 yards.

Whittaker, 30, spent the last five years with the Panthers, but missed the 2018 season with a torn ACL. His biggest year came in 2016 when he registered 4.6 yards per carry off of 57 attempts.

NFL Workout Updates: 9/17/19

Here are Tuesday’s updates from the workout circuit, all links going to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter unless otherwise noted.

Atlanta Falcons

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

  • T Gerhard deBeer, Christian DiLauro, Brandon Hitner, C James Murray (link)

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Oakland Raiders

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Redskins

Jaguars Sign T Ben Ijalana

Doug Marrone revealed Saturday the Jaguars’ tackle situation may not be optimal until after the regular season begins. A day later, the Jags added an experienced blocker.

Former Jets tackle Ben Ijalana agreed to a Jaguars deal Sunday. The team also released running back Benny Cunningham with an injury designation. Cunningham, who signed with the Jaguars in April, is dealing with a hamstring injury.

Left tackle starter Cam Robinson, who is in the final stages of recovering from the ACL tear he suffered last September, may not be ready in time for Week 1. The Jags signed former Bengals first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi and Buccaneers UDFA Leonard Wester this offseason. They drafted Jawaan Taylor in Round 2; the former Florida Gator is expected to be Jacksonville’s opening day right tackle, with the other two vying to be the Robinson stopgap on the other side. Ijalana, 30, may now be in that mix while also representing a depth option.

The Jets used Ijalana in 30 games from 2014-17. His most notable work came as New York’s starting left tackle for 13 games in 2016. He wound up on Gang Green’s IR list in August of 2018. Ijalana’s NFL action has come in spurts, with the former Colts second-round pick not playing in the 2013, ’15 or ’18 regular seasons.

Cunningham has played six NFL seasons, for the Rams and Bears. He will exit a Jaguars running back room headed by Leonard Fournette but also housing Alfred Blue, Thomas Rawls, Roc Thomas and fifth-round pick Ryquell Armstead.

The Jags also signed rookie offensive lineman Ka’Jahn Armstrong and tight end Ethan Wolf. They waived fellow blockers Jordan Agasiva and Andrew Lauderdale, Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com notes.

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Jaguars Sign RB Benny Cunningham

The Jaguars have signed running back Benny Cunningham, per a team announcement. The move comes on the heels of signing running back Alfred Blue, giving the Jaguars two backup options behind starter Leonard Fournette

Blue profiles as more of a traditional ball carrier while Cunningham figures to be more of a special teams contributor.

I’m just excited to have the opportunity,” the seventh-year veteran said in a press release from Jacksonville. “I feel like this place will be home for me. I’m excited to get started. There are pieces in place that this team can win the Super Bowl. I just want to be part of something special.”

Cunningham has a 26.3-yard average on 110 career kickoff returns. He had just 14 carries for 36 yards in two seasons with the Bears, but he has shifted gears and now embraces his role on special teams.

Meanwhile, the deal reunites Cunningham with former Rams teammate Nick Foles.

I can’t wait to call Nick, talk to him and catch up,” the running back said.

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Jaguars To Meet With Alfred Blue

The Jaguars are on the hunt for backup running backs. This week, the Jags will meet with Alfred Blue and Benny Cunningham, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). 

Injuries have opened up opportunities for Blue with the Texans, though he has dealt with maladies of his own. Last year, Blue had 150 carries playing mostly as a reserve, but he had just 499 yards, resulting in a 3.3 yards per carry average. In terms of efficiency, Blue enjoyed his best season in 2016 when he averaged 4.2 yards per tote. Blue has five career 100-yard performances, but his last one came in 2017 in a blowout loss to the Steelers.

Cunningham, meanwhile, had just eleven carries for 20 yards with the Bears in 2018, but he made his mark on special teams.

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Bears To Re-Sign Benny Cunningham

Benny Cunningham enjoyed an interesting Monday. The veteran running back made a visit to New Orleans to meet with the Saints, and he reached an agreement. Only not with the Saints.

The Bears agreed to terms to re-sign Cunningham, Joel Erickson of The Advocate reports (on Twitter). Cunningham also visited the Buccaneers during his latest stay in free agency but will come back to Chicago.

Going into his sixth season, Cunningham will turn 28 in July. He only received nine carries last season in playing behind Jordan Howard and alongside Tarik Cohen. But the Bears used Cunningham in the passing game. The former Rams runner caught 20 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns last season, and he’ll continue to provide depth in the Windy City.

New Orleans has former seventh-round pick Daniel Lasco, now-journeyman ball-carrier Jonathan Williams and 2017 UDFA Trey Edmunds representing its depth behind Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Cunningham would have a better chance of seeing offensive work with the Bears, but the Saints are clearly looking around the market for reserve options.

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Saints To Meet With Benny Cunningham

Running back Benny Cunningham is expected to visit the Saints soon, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets. He adds that other teams are interested in Cunningham, who has appeal both as a backup running back and special teams standout.

The Saints are set at the top of their running back depth chart with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, but there could be room for Cunnigham in a group behind them that currently includes Trey Edmunds, Daniel Lasco, and Jonathan Williams. The Saints are the bottom ten of the league in salary cap space, per Over The Cap, but Cunningham would not be a costly addition for them.

Cunningham averaged 27.8 yards per kick return with the Rams from 2014-16, which would make him an intriguing special teams pickup. Last year, Alvin Kamara averaged 31.5 yards per return for the Saints, but they may look to protect him a bit more going forward and use him less frequently on kick returns. Tommylee Lewis had the most KR attempts of any Saint (13) and he averaged 23.6 per try.

Cunningham visited the Buccaneers on Sunday but left Florida without signing a deal.

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Buccaneers Host RB Benny Cunningham

The Buccaneers are meeting with free agent running back Benny Cunningham on Sunday, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).

Tampa Bay’s running back depth chart is currently in flux, as the club released Doug Martin earlier this offseason while Charles Sims is an unrestricted free agent. While the Buccaneers still employ Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers, Cunningham could help replace Sims, who spent the past four years as Tampa’s receiving back. The 27-year-old Cunningham only managed 20 receptions working behind fellow Bears Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in 2017, but he posted 45 catches as recently as 2014.

Cunningham also has a history as a kick returner, as he averaged 27.8 yards per return with the Rams from 2014-16. The Buccaneers used three kick returners — Rodgers, wide receiver Bernard Reedy, and Sims — in 2017, but the latter two are no longer on the team’s roster.

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