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'It's their time': Coaches expect young Cardinals to make big strides this season

RB Eno Benjamin and ILB Zaven Collins are among players to watch heading into the season.

ARIZONA, USA — The Arizona Cardinals are looking to become the third consecutive NFL team to win a Super Bowl championship at their home stadium and the work to get there begins right now with their offseason workouts.

Throughout voluntary OTAs, Cardinals coaches and players have echoed that there's an expectation for some of the young players to make big strides this season. 

With some changes to Arizona's roster in the offseason, including the departure of running back Chase Edmonds, former ASU star Eno Benjamin is looking to capitalize on his opportunities. 

Benjamin showed flashes last year, including scoring his first career NFL touchdown in a Week 9 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been impressed with the third-year running back during offseason workouts.

"His running ability has always been there. It's just learning some of the intricacies of our offense and the pass pro and things of that nature. But he's taking huge strides," Kingsbury said of Benjamin.

"I've been really proud of what he did last year and it's carried over to this offseason. He's had one of the best offseasons that we've seen out there and I expect him to have a great preseason and we'll see where it goes."

Second-year linebacker Zaven Collins is another player that coaches are looking to see contribute more this season. Collins, a 2021 first-round Draft pick, only played 20% of Arizona's defensive snaps last season. Collins addressed his shaky rookie season and the shoulder injury that held him back during voluntary OTAs.

"Obviously last year didn't go as everyone would want but that's part of life," Collins said. "A lot of it was my fault. Some bad practices, dealing with shoulder stuff. Dealing with the shoulder, it actually had a lot more of an effect on me than I thought."

Collins said the way he tried to play through his shoulder injury "probably wasn't a smart idea" but he's ready to move forward and learn from his mistakes. 

With the offseason release of veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks, Cardinals Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph needs Collins and 2020 first-round draft pick Isaiah Simmons to step up to the challenge ahead.

"It's their time. Isaiah's going into his third year, Zaven's going into his second year, they're first-round picks. They have to help us," Joseph said. "I've been proud of Zaven, how much time he's put in, Isaiah's always been a good worker. It's the next step for him. Obviously watching him last year, he made plays but now he has to make consistent plays and not give up plays. That's his next challenge. And for Zaven, it's staying healthy and keep learning. Both guys are physically gifted so we have to get those guys ready to play because we need them."

The Cardinals open mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, June 14. Coach Kingsbury says he expects to see quarterback Kyler Murray there after missing a majority of voluntary OTAs.

Follow the conversation with Lina Washington on Twitter: @LWashingtonTV. If you have a sports story idea, e-mail Lina at LWashington@12News.com.

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