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Stepfan Taylor Hopes For Running Start

Posted Aug 7, 2013

Notebook: Cards thin in backfield for Packers; WR Gill hopes to return next week

Rookie running back Stepfan Taylor could get significant playing time Friday.

Bruce Arians will get what he wants Friday.

All week the first-year head coach talked about evaluating rookies and young players during most of the Cardinals’ first preseason game at Green Bay. He’s particularly interested in the running backs, which, outside of Rashard Mendenhall, are in a foot race for playing time.

While Mendenhall is expected to play about 15 snaps along with the rest of his fellow starters, the rest of the snaps will be taken by a combination of Alfonso Smith, Stepfan Taylor and possibly Andre Ellington. Ryan Williams will stay in Arizona, Arians said, to continue resting his irritated knee.

Ellington, who had a stiff neck and headache after Tuesday’s practice, missed Wednesday because the Cardinals put him through the concussion protocol and may not make the trip. That could leave two backs for three quarters, and since Smith is in his fourth season, Arians will be focused on evaluating Taylor.

“What you do out there against another team at full speed is key,” Taylor said. “I’ve got to go out and prepare for that.”

Playing with so few backs isn’t Arians’ preference but his options are limited. Smith is a downhill runner who has shown an aptitude for pass protection, while Taylor is a between-the-tackles type with good vision.

Taylor is prepared to carry 20 or 30 times Friday. At Stanford, he learned how to train his body for the brutality of football, which will come in handy if he receives a large chunk of snaps during the preseason.

“That’s why it’s important, hopefully, we can get Rashard (for) the first quarter and the other two guys can handle the rest of the load because I don’t really like going into regular season games with just three, let alone a preseason game,” Arians said.

During the last few practices, Taylor and Smith have been running with the first team, which meant a faster pace for the rookie.

His adjustment to the NFL has been accelerated because of injuries, but it’s also given him exposure he may not have received had all the backs stayed healthy. Taylor has been preparing for it since he returned to Tempe in June.

“They say injuries is opportunity,” he said. “You don’t want to be put in that situation and once you’re out there you’re not prepared. It just gives off the wrong impression to the coaches. So you try to be as prepared as possible.”

GILL EXPECTS TO RETURN SOON

Wide receiver Robert Gill has been out of sight during practice for the past 10 days and out of Arians’ mind.

“I don’t remember his name,” Arians said. “He needs to get back on the field.”

Gill said after Wednesday’s practice that his left hamstring will be back to 100 percent when the team returns from its preseason game at Green Bay. The 29-year-old rookie missed his 10th full day of practice. He’s been working outside with the Cardinals’ training staff but is walking a fine line between coming back too soon and missing more time to let his hamstring heal.

“It’s tricky because I know what they expect out of me,” Gill said. “I know where I fit in this offense. The hamstring is one of those injuries where (if) you come back too soon, you can get pushed back another month. I’m just trying to work hard, stay in the playbook.”

But with the race for the fourth wide receiver spot heating up, Arians said Gill’s speed isn’t doing the receiver any favors these days.

“That was a long time ago,” Arians said.

NO HARD KNOCKS FOR PALMER

Carson Palmer was in front of HBO’s cameras for the training camp series Hard Knocks when he played for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009. Four years later, the series returned to Palmer’s old stomping grounds but he can’t watch it, at least not during training camp.

“No HBO at the hotel,” Palmer said. “It’s a Showtime hotel.”

But if the team’s hotel in Glendale did have the premium channel, Palmer would’ve been glued to the TV.

“Yeah, I love Hard Knocks,” he said. “I love watching it.”

ABRAHAM TIME IS COMING

The record books show what John Abraham can do.

He’s the NFL’s active leader in career sacks with 122, tying him with Simeon Rice for 13th all-time. But the free-agent acquisition hasn’t had an opportunity to show his skills during training camp because he’s not allowed to hit the quarterback. Palmer doesn’t need to see Abraham in practice to know what he’s capable off. Abraham has sacked him four times throughout their careers. 

“It’s hard,” Palmer said. “His job is to tackle the quarterback and when the quarterback is not live it’s hard to really stand out at that position.

“But the guy knows how to play. He’s been doing it a long time and he’s been successful the last two stops he’s been.”

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