Cardinals backup quarterbacks Drew Stanton (left) and Blaine Gabbert during training camp on Monday.
It's too early to know whether a legitimate battle for the Cardinals' backup quarterback job will break out in training camp.
Drew Stanton returns for his fifth season and is projected to again be the safety net behind Carson Palmer, but the signing of Blaine Gabbert has added another wrinkle. Gabbert is a former top-10 pick who hasn't found success in the NFL, but has more tools than most of the third-string quarterbacks the Cardinals have cycled through in the past.
Coach Bruce Arians said it would be "tough" for Gabbert to supplant Stanton for the backup job, but didn't rule it out. Stanton said Gabbert's presence hasn't changed his thinking. He has never considered employment a formality, even when it was clear he was entrenched at the No. 2 spot in past seasons.
"You guys see the scouts out there," Stanton said. "They're not out there just for the heck of it. They're out there evaluating everything we do. We have to be our toughest critics as well. I'm charting every single throw I'm throwing in training camp. I'm trying to be accurate and trying to do all those little things."
"Everybody wants these jobs and there are only so many to go around," Stanton added.
The Cardinals' backup quarterback situation was recently ranked as the ninth-best in the NFL by ESPN. Stanton is 6-3 as a starter with the Cardinals, and his goal is to once again be prepared to step in if needed in 2017.
The arrival of Gabbert hasn't changed his routine, and Stanton said he's made it a point to make Gabbert feel welcome. When Stanton was a younger quarterback, Shaun Hill left an indelible mark with his kindness. Stanton said he knows he won't play forever, and wants to be known as a good teammate after he retires.
"I was fortunate to have older guys take me under their wing," Stanton said. "I'll be a resource for him, Trevor (Knight) and everybody else. … I take that role very seriously, being able to help everybody else around me. Because if it wasn't for that, I wouldn't be in the league."
MOMENT OF TRUTH FOR NKEMDICHE
Arians continues to speak highly of former first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche, who failed to make an impact as a rookie in 2016. Arians believes Nkemdiche has matured, and with the pads coming on at training camp Monday, the progress can now be tangible.
"He's quick and explosive," Arians said. "I want to see it in pads, and I want to see the battles that come along with it. He and (guard Evan) Boehm have been getting after each other."
Nkemdiche had several snaps on Monday where he surged into the backfield to disrupt plays. They came against backup offensive linemen, but his focus and intensity was high, which is something Arians has seen improve since last season.
"When you're the No. 1 high school recruit in the country, you kicked everybody's (expletive) in high school," Arians said. "You did it in college. You just showed up and did it. It doesn't work here. Especially when you've got guys who've got children, are paying bills. This is a whole lot different level here."
NO MORE SOCCER
The first day of pads is the equivalent to Christmas for Arians. The offseason can focus on the technical aspects of the game, but the lack of contact takes away an important evaluation from the coaching staff.
The offensive and defensive lines should start to come into clearer focus with contact allowed moving forward.
"It's finally football," Arians said. "The game is won in the trenches. I want to find out what we have. Not just the veteran guys. I want to see some of these young guys that don't look good in shorts but are damn good football players."
GALLON LEAVES PRACTICE
Undrafted free agent safety Ironhead Gallon injured his left knee during a collision near the end of practice. He left the field with a trainer and didn't return.
Images from the second practice of #CardsCamp