Quarterback Drew Stanton scrambles to make a play last week in Green Bay.
Drew Stanton is no different than any other quarterback.
He has a rocket as an arm and sees the field unlike the 21 other players. He also shares that same desire to get on the field that drives anyone who takes a snap in the NFL.
But there are only 32 starting jobs, and when the Cardinals traded for Carson Palmer on April 2 – about three weeks after Stanton signed with the team as a free agent – coach Bruce Arians immediately announced Palmer was the starter.
It seemed to define the role that Stanton, with six years in the NFL under his belt, would play. Yet he wasn't letting it affect his mindset.
"It didn't change my approach or anything," Stanton said. "I'm still going about it like anybody else, I'm sure, in this league that's getting prepared to play. They're doing everything within their power and (I can only) worry about the stuff I have control over. And I don't have control over that."
What Stanton can dictate is how well he handles being the Cardinals' second-string quarterback. His performance in the Cardinals'
preseason opener in Green Bay was impressive, completing 8-of-14 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown and escaping a pair of sacks with some fancy footwork scrambling out of the pocket.
The situation was tough for Stanton at first because the competitive juices start flowing and he was ready to compete for a starting job. But now he's secure with his role and has been a resource for not just everyone in the quarterback room because of his intimate knowledge of Arians' offensive thinking, but for everyone on the team.
"He understands B.A.," Palmer said. "We ask (Stanton), 'What (are) his Wednesdays like? What are we doing on the practice field on Fridays? Are we practicing red zone? Third down?' to little intricacies of the offense, protections.
"Having him as sounding board in our room really helped us because Bruce has a lot on his plate. He's the offensive coordinator but he's also the head coach, and he has lot of different ways he's getting tugged. Drew's really acted as an extension of him."
Stanton laughed at that thought but he understands being one of two offensive players who have played under Arians – Rashard Mendenhall is the other – he bears a natural responsibility for providing an institutional knowledge to the other quarterbacks.
Stanton takes that responsibility personally.
"I think it's inherent with this position," Stanton said. "You have to know what's going on and you have to offer as much information as you possibly know and you have to be right in doing so.
"There has to be credibility behind what you're saying."
Stanton isn't just sitting in the quarterbacks' room, watching tape and listening to Palmer talk without readying himself for another shot at starting. He's been around the league long enough to know all it takes is one snap, one play, one hit for Palmer to be sidelined and Stanton to ascend the depth chart.
Stanton prepares as if he's the starter. During practices, he puts that in-depth knowledge of the offense on display by taking risks the other quarterbacks, who are still learning the scheme, aren't comfortable with yet. Arians said it sometimes manifests itself when Stanton tries to squeeze passes into narrow openings.
Arians appreciates the tenacity but he'd also rather Stanton never take a snap.
"He's more than ready," Arians said. "Drew works hard. That's the life of number two. You don't want your number two to play for many years. If he is, you have a problem. But he is more than ready. He knows the offense. He's been in it for a year-and-a-half. Bright guy. He's had a heck of a camp."
As much as Stanton wants to regain those feelings he had after just being signed, he knows there's a method to it all.
Starting might not be in the cards this season, or it just might. Time will tell. But in the meantime, he'll keep a smile on his face and his head in his playbook.
"This is just another step in my process, in my quest to do so," he said. "Whether it happens next year or the years after that, I know I'm getting paid to do a job this year and I need to do it to the best of my ability regardless of the circumstances around me."