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Bruce Arians pleased with Arizona Cardinals QB Blaine Gabbert's play

By
The Sports Xchange
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert. File photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert. File photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Carson Palmer's cast has been removed from his surgically-repaired broken left arm.

Drew Stanton was healthy enough to dress as the team's backup despite nursing a sprained right knee.

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And Blaine Gabbert is coming off a career-high three touchdown performance in his first action and start of the year.

So what are the stumbling Arizona Cardinals prepared to do at quarterback moving forward this season?

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Palmer, who turns 38 on Dec. 27, is presently on injured reserve but can be activated off that list and return for the team's final two games of the regular season. He's also under contract for the 2018 season, but there are no guarantees he will decide to return until he's had time to think more about his future.

Stanton, 33, is 7-4 as a starter in Arizona when replacing the injured Palmer and played well in all three of his starts this season before getting hurt by a low hit from the Seahawks' Sheldon Richardson in Week 10 during a 22-16 loss. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent after joining the Cardinals in 2013.

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Gabbert, 28, signed a one-year deal with the team in May and was inactive for each of Arizona's first nine games until getting pressed into starting duties Sunday in Houston against the Texans.

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"I thought Blaine played his ass off," Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said after Gabbert completed 22 of 34 passes for 257 yards and the three touchdowns.

Gabbert, however, also threw two fourth-quarter interceptions, which helped flip the game in the Texans' favor and led to a 31-21 Houston victory, sending the Cardinals to their second straight loss for the first time in 2017. It dropped them to 4-6, which basically means they have to win each of their remaining six games to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs.

So does Arians stick with Gabbert this Sunday against the quarterback's original team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, or does he turn back to Stanton if Stanton's knee is stable enough to let him start?

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"Drew is going to be healthier; he's still not as healthy as he was before," Arians said, "but we'll stick with Blaine and watch Drew get healthy and then make a decision as we move forward. But we'll stick with the way it is right now."

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As for Palmer and whether the Cardinals plan to ultimately activate him, Arians wasn't sure what will happen.

He does know this: He's already seen enough of Gabbert to know Gabbert can play quarterback in the NFL and be a starter - whether it's for the Cardinals or someone else.

"I think I've known that all along," Arians said. "I don't think I have to find anything else out."

Doesn't he need to see Gabbert in more game action to fully determine Gabbert's future if it's going to include Arizona or not? Until recently, all the work Gabbert was getting in practices was with the scout team.

"What I saw is exactly what I thought I'd see," Arians said, "and I just think it'll get better the more he throws to Larry - he's rarely ever thrown to Larry and those starting guys. So if he gets a little more timing with them, I think he'll just get better."

--Running back Andre Ellington was released on Monday, a day after he was a healthy scratch for Sunday's game in Houston. The team signed running back Bronson Hill, who entered the league in 2015 as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Michigan, to the practice squad.

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--Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald would not discuss the one-year contract extension he signed Friday with the club following the Cardinals' 31-21 loss on the road Sunday to the Texans.

Asked for the first time publicly if the extension meant he definitely will play in 2018, Fitzgerald would only say: "I'm only focused on (next week's game against) Jacksonville. We lost a tough one today. We've got a really, really, really good defense coming in at home this weekend and two good defenses following them (in the Rams and Titans). We've got to focus on that and that's where all my attention is focused."

Asked if that meant he hasn't yet fully made a decision about playing in 2018, Fitzgerald again dodged the question.

"That means I'm focused on the next game," he said. "We're in the midst of the season. It's a team game. It's not about any one individual, what they're doing or not doing. That's where I'm going to keep the focus."

Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 91 yards and a touchdown against the Texans, in the process passing tight end Tony Gonzalez (15,127) for fifth place on the NFL's all-time receiving yards list. He is now 51 yards shy of moving past Isaac Bruce (15,208) for fourth all-time.

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--Head coach Bruce Arians was disappointed for a second straight week with his receivers not named Larry Fitzgerald, pointing out a rash of dropped passes once again and threatening changes next week when the team meets visiting Jacksonville.

"We'll be looking at some different receivers next week," he vowed, adding when asked specifically what he didn't like. "You'd have to ask them because the balls hit them right in the face and then they drop them. Like I said, it's time to look somewhere else."

One receiver who could start getting more playing time is rookie Chad Williams, the team's third-round pick who has been mostly inactive this season on game days.

"He's going to get his shot," Arians said.

--"Very simple, I cost our team the game. Trust is a funny thing sometimes. When you can't gain a foot, you deserve to lose, especially when you make the decision I made, the play I called. There's your headline. You can write it. ... It comes down to that call. In retrospect, should have punted." - Head coach Bruce Arians after the game on his decision to go for it one fourth-and-1 from the Cardinals' 35-yard line with 6:30 remaining against the Texans only for Adrian Peterson to get snuffed for a 1-yard loss and then see Houston score on the ensuing play for a game-clinching touchdown.

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--"The fourth down call, I take all that (stuff) back I said yesterday," Arians said Monday. "That was a damn good call, and we busted an assignment at the point of attack. That was an easy pickup. Goody (offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin) had a hell of a play designed, we called it and we busted an assignment. They did not whoop us up there. We just turned them loose, the interior of our offensive line. So, I take everything I said back."

--The one-on-one matchup between Cardinals' All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson and Texans star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins played up to its hype as both players had their moments against the other. Peterson came up with a one-handed interception on a tipped pass and twice prevented Hopkins from hauling in passes in the end zone. Hopkins, meanwhile, had two long completions against Peterson, including a 28-yarder for a touchdown.

"It was a great matchup," Peterson said. "Might have to call it a draw because we both made plays all day. He scored, I got a pick. The balls he didn't catch I was knocking down. I got a couple (pass breakups), so I've just got to continue grinding."

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NOTES: RB Adrian Peterson is averaging less than two yards per carry over his past two games, gaining just 53 yards on 35 attempts. ... RB Andre Ellington, who typically plays as the team's third-down back, was a healthy scratch on Sunday against the Texans. He was replaced as the third-down back by second-year pro D.J. Foster, who finished with two receptions for 26 yards in his first action of the season. He did not have a rushing attempt. The Arizona State product won a Super Bowl last season as a member of the Patriots. Ellington was waived Monday. ... SS Budda Baker, the team's rookie second-round pick out of Washington, made his first start of the season in place of the injured Tyvon Branch, and didn't disappoint in the loss to Houston. He finished with 13 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. "Throughout the week I got all the (first-team) reps so that helped a lot," Baker said. "Once it's game time, you just get to play."

Head coach Bruce Arians was impressed, saying, "I thought Budda played his tail off. Just from the sideline, making the plays he made. He's going to be a heck of a player." ... TE Ricky Seals-Jones, moving up to No. 3 on the depth chart following a season-ending ankle injury to Ifeanyi Momah, didn't have a catch in the NFL until Sunday's game against the Texans. The undrafted rookie free agent out of Texans A&M had three receptions for 56 yards and two touchdowns, however, in a 31-21 loss at Houston just some 50 miles from his hometown. "Ricky has really been impressive in practice against our defense," head coach Bruce Arians said. "Just put some plays in for him and he responded really well." Said Seals-Jones, "It was memorable. It's very good to make the last name on my back proud." ... CB Patrick Peterson now has 21 career interceptions, which is tied for the ninth-most in Cardinals' history and is tied for the third-most among active players since the start of the 2011 season. ... WR Larry Fitzgerald has caught at least one touchdown pass from 14 quarterbacks during his career with the Cardinals. The list, after catching his first TD from Blaine Gabbert on Sunday vs. the Texans, looks like this: Kurt Warner (39), Carson Palmer (28), Josh McCown (12), John Skelton (7), Kevin Kolb (5), Matt Leinart (5), Derek Anderson (4), Drew Stanton (2), Max Hall (1), Rich Bartel (1), John Navarre (1), Shaun King (1), Brian St. Pierre (1) and now Gabbert (1).

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REPORT CARD VS. TEXANS

--PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus - Blaine Gabbert passed for a career-high three touchdowns, but he also threw two costly fourth-quarter interceptions that flipped the game for the Texans. The Cardinals were just 3-for-10 on third down after starting the game 0-for-5. Larry Fitzgerald (nine catches for 91 yards and a touchdown) and rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (two touchdown receptions) were really the only two bright spots.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus - Once again, the Cardinals proved they couldn't generate anything on the ground. Adrian Peterson was held to just 26 yards on 14 carries and has been stuffed each of his past two games. Gabbert ran for 13 yards on three keepers and Arizona finished with just 48 rushing yards overall. That's just not going to cut it.

--PASS DEFENSE: C-minus - The pass rush only got to Tom Savage once for a sack, which was shocking. The Cardinals did get an interception, but allowed two touchdown passes and eight third-down conversions. Rookie safety Budda Baker had a whale of a game in his first start with 13 tackles, including a strip-sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

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--RUSH DEFENSE: D - Houston rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns against this group, including a game-breaking 34-yarder in the fourth quarter by D'Onta Foreman, who finished with a game-high 65 yards on 10 carries. Lamar Miller added 61 yards on 22 carries and caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: D - Punter Andy Lee was super, placing all six of his kicks inside the Texans' 20-yard line. Phil Dawson made all three extra-point attempts. Other than that, it was another huge disappointment by the special teams units. They were penalized three times: One on the punt team for holding, another for obstructing the long snapper on an extra-point attempt, and an illegal block in the back on the punt return team. Meanwhile, the return game never really netted anything.

--COACHING: D - It was the wrong decision by head coach Bruce Arians to decide to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 35 with six-plus minutes left to go in a three-point game. The way Lee was punting, he should have made him boot the ball away. Instead, Peterson got stuffed for a 1-yard loss and Foreman ripped off a long touchdown run on the ensuing play. You also have to put a lot of blame on the coaching staff as a whole for the Cardinals' 10 accepted penalties for 90 yards.

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