Prior to the Duane Brown signing, the Jets brought in two other offensive linemen to provide some depth to a group with multiple injuries and we’ve been breaking them down for you this week. We wrap up today with an in-depth look at Caleb Benenoch.
The 28-year old Benenoch is listed at 6’5” and 305 pounds and was a fifth round pick out of UCLA in 2016. He has played in 35 games, starting 22, at the NFL level, albeit that he has just played in two, starting one, since 2018.
Benenoch, who was born in Nigeria, only started playing football after his mother had signed him up for what she thought was the soccer team in high school. He became a four-star recruit and eventually headed to UCLA.
In his freshman year, Benenoch started the last nine games at right tackle and then was an honorable mention all-Pac-12 selection in his sophomore year as he started all 13 games. He started all 13 games again in 2015, ending his career with 35 straight starts as he opted to enter the NFL draft following his junior year.
Benenoch was invited to the scouting combine and drafted by the Bucs in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. As a rookie, he was mostly inactive, starting one game and seeing action in four others. He started five games in his second season.
In 2018, Benenoch was a full-time starter and started all 16 games, although he struggled at times. He lost his starting job in 2019 and was released after the first game.
Thereafter, he bounced around the league for the rest of the 2019 season, spending a few weeks each with the Patriots, Panthers, Cowboys and Lions but not seeing any action with any of these.
He returned to the Lions for training camp in 2020, but was released in final cuts. He spent the year on New England’s practice squad from where he was elevated to the active roster just once but did not play. He ended the year on the injured list.
In 2021, Benenoch spent two weeks in Bills camp before being released, then went to Saints camp. They released him in final cuts and put him on the practice squad, but he was activated to start a late season game with them - his first NFL action since the 2019 opener.
He was without an NFL team until the Jets signed him last week.
Now let’s take a look at what Benenoch brings to the table, divided into categories.
Benenoch has decent length but he has been regarded as someone who lacks play strength. He opted not to do the bench press at the combine.
He ran an impressive 4.98 in the 40-yard dash at the combine but his explosiveness numbers were mediocre and his agility numbers were poor.
In college, Benenoch made 31 of his 35 starts at right tackle, with the other five being at right guard. However, he was originally going to start at left tackle in his freshman year, only to then get injured in the spring.
He’s been pretty versatile at the NFL level. In his rookie year, he played left guard, then started five games at right tackle in year two. 2018 saw him start all 16 games at right guard. He’s also seen action at left tackle in preseason (and for two snaps in the regular season) and as a jumbo package tight end.
He started at right tackle in his one appearance with the Saints last season and that’s also where he played in his Jets debut last week.
Benenoch has had some issues in pass protection over the course of his career. He gave up 10 sacks in the 2018 season alone. He has pretty good feet to get in front of his man’s initial rush, but can struggle to react to counters.
He can be overpowered or dominated by opposing defensive tackles at times due to his lack of strength.
Benenoch’s balance and anchor can be an issue against the bull rush but he battles to stay in plays.
Benenoch’s run blocking looks pretty good at times, including in his first game with the Jets where he did a solid job of kicking his man out on the outside and getting traction at the point of attack.
He’s had mixed results on the whole over the course of his career, but he shows an ability to peel off a double team and seal a man off at the second level.
He’s also proven to be capable of making blocks on the move, pulling outside here to set the edge.
Despite his reputation as someone who lacks strength, he gets a decent surge on this double team, then peels off and finds a linebacker to pick up.
Benenoch needs to work on his consistency and continue to refine his technique to become a more effective run blocker.
Benenoch’s play strength can be an issue in short yardage situations as he can get stood up, enabling runs to be bottled up. On this 3rd-and-short play, he is out of control as he tries to get low enough to get an upfield surge and it means he doesn’t get enough of the nose tackle with the center clearly expecting some help from his right side.
The Bucs did rush for four touchdowns from the one-yard line and four from the two in his lone season as a full time starter, but he’s perhaps more effective on the move in these situations than trying to drive his man back.
Benenoch is athletic enough to get in front of a screen pass and can find and lock onto a target. However, the defender is able to get downhill laterally to stretch this run to the outside and limit the gain.
He has been called for one holding penalty on a screen pass in his NFL career so far.
Benenoch needs to work on his balance, both in the trenches and when anchoring against a bull rush. Another issue is that when he is run blocking out in space, he will bend at the waist and lunge after his man too often.
In pass protection, Benenoch can look a little stiff and mechanical when dropping into his stance, which can lead to players beating him around the edge when he’s playing tackle.
His hand placement also needs work, as he struggles to repel the first punch and to get his hands inside. Fletcher Cox takes advantage here by knocking him off balance to gain upfield separation.
Penalties have been a bit of a concern for Benenoch over the years, as he has 13 in the NFL despite only starting 22 games. Four of these were false starts and eight were for holding. The other was for illegal use of the hands. He had eight penalties in the 2018 season alone.
Penalties were a concern for him coming out of college too. He had 23 penalties in his 26 starts over his final two seasons.
Benenoch’s only special teams contributions have been as a blocker on the placekicking unit. He had one penalty in this role, although it was just a false start before a chip shot field goal attempt, so it didn’t really matter.
Benenoch has shown good versatility and has obviously practiced with several different NFL teams
On this play, he doesn’t anticipate the defensive tackle stunting underneath and allows him to get to the quarterback unblocked.
He usually does a good job of finding a target to block in space and moving from one assignment to another, but here was a play where he failed to block the correct player in the running game.
Benenoch was a good student, who was on the academic honor roll in his freshman year while at UCLA.
Benenoch is a player with a good attitude and work ethic, who was regarded as one of the leaders at UCLA. He’s worked hard to improve his strength and consistency.
During his freshman year, he was ejected from a game against USC for throwing a punch but he says this was a learning experience which helped him to mature.
Benenoch hasn’t missed much time due to injuries during his pro career but he has had a few issues.
In 2021, he missed one game on Covid-19 reserve and was knocked out of his only appearance when he appeared to tweak his ankle late in the fourth quarter. In 2020, he spent several weeks at the end of the season on New England’s practice squad injured list due to an undisclosed injury.
Despite starting every game in 2018, he had dealt with an ankle injury and a knee injury in preseason and then left a game early due to illness.
At UCLA, he tore his meniscus during the spring before his freshman season and missed the start of the year as a result.
As noted, Benenoch has played in a variety of roles and for multiple NFL teams, so he should be quite adaptable. His teams over the years have played a mixture of run blocking and zone blocking schemes.
He was a teammate of Conor McDermott while at UCLA and the pair used to work out together during the offseason. Current Jets who have been teammates of his during his NFL career so far include Jordan Whitehead, Kwon Alexander (both with the Bucs and Saints), Rachad Wildgoose, Ty Johnson and Nick Bawden.
While Benenoch was brought in out of necessity because the Jets were a few men down on the offensive line, that doesn’t mean he can’t earn a spot if he plays well in preseason. As noted, he already played well against the Eagles, so he’ll look to build on that. However, he was not a popular player with the Bucs fanbase.
A spot on the active roster seems unlikely, and he shouldn’t start any games for the Jets this year unless something goes seriously wrong. However, it might not be beyond him to be the kind of player who could be carried on the practice squad and elevated in an emergency, like Isaiah Williams was last season. Williams is one of the players he’ll be competing with for such a role.