Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

The Curious Case Of Benny Cunningham

With all of the recent talk of RB’s Zac Stacy and Tre Mason, the undrafted tweener from Middle Tennessee State is becoming the forgotten man in the St. Louis Rams’ backfield. Last season, Benny Cunningham served as the backup to Stacy, after RB Daryl Richardson underperformed and then battled injuries for the remainder of the season. He finished 2014 with 261 rushing yards on 5.6 yards per carry and one TD. Cunningham is a favorite of head coach Jeff Fisher and the coaching staff, which was evident in the opportunities he got last season despite his ball security issues. As we’ve cited before, Mason was told by Fisher that he would compete for starter carries, despite Stacy’s breakout rookie year last season where he gained 1,114 total yards and 8 TD’s.

Cunningham’s role in the offense is sure to change, but how much? Cunningham was a runner who spelled Stacy when he needed a breather, and he filled in when he was dinged with injuries. This season, he could be relegated to the third-string back, predominantly contributing on special teams. But let’s examine what Cunningham accomplished last season before we assume he’s going to see his carries drop.

He played in 14 games last season, and his most notable performance came against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 24 when he rushed for 109 yards and a TD on only 13 carries. Cunningham filled in when Stacy sustained a concussion midway through the game, and he helped the Rams complete the upset when he extended for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. As impressive as that was, he was running against the Bears defense, which ranked dead last in rushing yards allowed per game at a whopping 161. The next worst team, the Atlanta Falcons, allowed 135 yards per game. The Bears also allowed the second most scores to running backs with 23, only behind the Washington Redskins. Excluding that performance, Cunningham rushed 34 times for 152 yards and zero touchdowns on the season. His longest run of the season was a 56 yard sprint during garbage time against an Indianapolis Colts team that was losing 38-8 with less than three minutes left. The games against the Colts and Bears made up 70 percent of his rushing yards for the season, he rushed for only 80 yards combined during the other 12 games he played in.

As much as players and fans like Bam-Bam, he is an undrafted player who has a relatively low ceiling as a professional running back. On most teams he would have been a third-string player last season, but Cunningham got early chances to get carries due to injuries sustained by Richardson and Stacy. Now that Mason is in town, Cunningham simply can’t compete physically. Mason is faster, breaks more tackles and has better vision. Much like RB Isaiah Pead, he could see the majority of his time covering kicks next season. Only time will tell though, as training camp and the preseason are still to come.

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Tags: Benny Cunningham St. Louis Rams

  • ricdram

    Mason is stronger than Benny ? Do you mean
    he is a more powerful RB or that he can bench
    more weight ? I don’t think either is true. Tre
    appears to be more talented but not stronger.
    Benny is 2″ taller & 10 lbs. heavier. I’ve seen
    Benny lay the wood on a few tacklers. I don’t
    think you should have gone there. I doesn’t
    matter, Benny will be a contributor for sure.

    • Nathan Kearns

      I read it as “stronger” with the football in his hands, not necessarily physically stronger. Cunningham may have put up an impressively-high 26 bench reps, but he is also an “easy tackle” compared to both Tre Mason and Zac Stacy. Mason is more shifty, has better balance to stay on his feet, and is more “bouncy” as a runner (i.e. bounces off hard hits, as opposed to getting knocked down). Could be interpreting it wrong, but that is what I got from it…

    • miker may

      yeah but he also included pead in there, and well, bennie put in his time and deserves a shot to play where he fits in, if he improves to even become the starter that’s where he deserves to be. mason, watts and any new backs entering rams camp will have to earn their way like bam did last year. all in all, i hope and wish them good luck, i’ll be grunting for ‘em all the way. rams rule the west

      • ricdram

        ” Watts ” = who ? Yeah I wish them all luck
        also. GO RAMS GO >>>>>>>>>>>>> ! ! !

  • Gary Stewart

    take away the bears game and 1 56yd gallop and you have a guy averaging 2.9 ypc fisher may like him and he should make the 53 but counting on him for much more than ST is wishful thinking, if we find a kick returner he may lose that spot as well.

    • ricdram

      Careful Gary! BAM BAM could lay the wood
      on you !