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Younger Cardinals Must Help Drew Stanton

Inexperienced players must improve to knock off Giants


Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton is back in the lineup against the Giants.

Bruce Arians made his anti-tanking philosophy clear on Monday when he announced quarterback Drew Stanton would return to the starting lineup against the Giants.

Blaine Gabbert is younger with more upside, so it would have been easy to keep evaluating him for the future. But Arians believes Stanton gives the team the best chance to win Sunday because of his familiarity with the playbook.

While the Cardinals now have vast experience under center, the game's outcome could tilt on the play of the youth surrounding Stanton. In keeping with his competitive mantra, Arians has not benched one productive veteran to get a youngster more playing time, but that hasn't mattered. The Cardinals have been hit so hard by injuries that inexperience dots the lineup.

Left tackle Will Holden, tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, guard Evan Boehm, running back D.J. Foster and safety Budda Baker are playing prominent roles, while running back Elijhaa Penny, safety Harlan Miller and linebacker Haason Reddick could see an uptick in snaps this week depending on the availability of veterans ahead of them.

"That's life in the NFL," Stanton said. "And as the new guys come in, we'll introduce ourselves and try to get them on board."

General Manager Steve Keim said on Monday he is willing to make big changes this offseason, so this is a critical evaluation period for the young players. The Cardinals' defense held up well on Sunday against Washington, but the offense couldn't score a touchdown in six red zone trips. Some of that had to do with inexperience.

"They're the next man up, and I'd like to see more improvement out of a couple of them," Arians said.

Arians vacillates between anger and understanding in times like these. He badly wants to keep winning, but realizes he's not playing with a full deck.

"You get (ticked) off, and then you're like, 'I'm sorry. You just got here. That's you we're talking to,'" Arians said. "So, those things you have to just … They're going to happen, and you just let them happen, and hopefully they happen on the practice field and not in the game."

New York has also pressed many young players into action, especially on offense, where injuries have hit hard. Star receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. has only played in four games while several other starters have missed time.

The Giants (2-12) began the season 0-5 and the strife culminated with the firing of coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese on Dec. 4 after an ill-conceived benching of Eli Manning for the team's Week 13 game against the Raiders.

Steve Spagnuolo has taken over as the interim coach and Manning is back at quarterback. The Giants are 0-2 since then but were competitive against the Eagles last time out.

"I'm very proud of what the guys have done, what the coaches have done, what everybody in the building has done, to kind of rallying around and trying to find a way to win," Spagnuolo said.

Both teams have dealt with some tumult throughout 2017, as this didn't turn into the prime matchup many expected before the season began. But the Cardinals still badly want to win it, and Stanton is the guy Arians tabbed to lead the way.

"Drew's one thing: he's as steady as they get," Arians said. "He's moving around really good now, and that's that veteran presence in the huddle."

Images of key players for this week's opponent, the New York Giants

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