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Drew Stanton Will Be

Good Enough For Cardinals

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Image by Keith Allison and used under the terms of a Creative Commons agreement.
Despite The Loss Of Former Heisman Trophy Winner And Top Tier FIeld General Carson Palmer, Perennial Backup Drew Stanton Only Needs To Be Efficient And Turnover Free For The Cardinals To Gain A First Round Bye

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Nov. 12, 2014 — With seven games left in the season, most NFL teams would be ecstatic to sit atop the NFL at 8-1. But, the Cardinals latest win over the St. Louis Rams was filled with a nascent mix of optimism and pessimism.

That’s because the team lost quarterback Carson Palmer to a torn ACL in the fourth quarter. It’s the same ACL he tore (along with his MCL) in a playoff game when he was with the Bengals. In one awkward moment, the Cardinals’ future went from impossibly bright to completely uncertain.

The Cardinals have won this season largely thanks to their defense and special teams. Despite free-agency losses, suspensions and injuries, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense is ranked fourth in the league in points allowed. On special teams, rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro is 16-for-17 on the season and the team has a few blocked field goals.

But, that doesn’t mean the offense has been insignificant. While it has underperformed based on high expectations, the Cardinals offense has shown a knack for big comebacks and big plays. Palmer has been a big part of that.

Despite missing several games with a shoulder injury, he’s having one of the best seasons of his career. Palmer’s three interceptions put him on pace to have the fewest in a season of his career by far. With his strong arm and big frame, he really is the perfect quarterback for head coach Bruce Arians’ system and it was paying off.

So, can the Cardinals survive, and even make a playoff run, without Palmer at the helm?

To answer that question, we have to look at backup Drew Stanton. While he’s never had a chance to start regularly, Stanton is widely considered one of the best backups in the league. That showed early on this season during Palmer’s shoulder injury.

In a three game stretch, Stanton went 2-1. His only loss came against the Denver Broncos when he left the game early with a concussion. The Cardinals were losing when Stanton left the game, but were still in contention.

Stanton is also largely responsible for the Cardinals win on Sunday against the Rams. On his first drive after Palmer’s injury, he went 3-for-3 and completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to a diving John Brown to give the Cardinals a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter.

In his performances so far, Stanton has shown a penchant for hitting receivers on the long ball, but he has lacked consistency. Despite his success, his completion percentage is below 50 percent.

But, the question isn’t, ‘can Stanton be Palmer.’

The real question is can Stanton be good enough to keep the Cardinals in the game so the defense and special teams can do their thing.

Based on his performance so far, I think the answer will prove to be a resounding yes at the end of the season.

Stanton isn’t going to carry the team, but he can make throws when he needs to and has enough weapons on offense in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Brown and Andre Ellington to put up points. That, along with a stout defense and automatic kicker, are enough to push the Cardinals into the playoffs.

Will the team be able to move on to the Super Bow? I’m not sure. But that scenario was hardly guaranteed with Palmer healthy, anyway. These aren’t the disappointing cardiac Cards of old, but they are still cardiac Cards nonetheless because every game seems like a nailbiter. The only difference is now the team is winning.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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