Position primer: Quarterbacks


1. Carson Palmer

CardinalsSource.com analysis: Though it’s entirely possible Palmer is past his prime, the Cardinals are in no position to turn away from the quarterback they’ve built this offense around. Arizona’s current championship window hinges on whether Palmer is able to play at the level he reached in 2015, because as Palmer goes, so too does the Cardinals’ offense. Sure, Arizona has outstanding pieces like running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but the Cardinals need Palmer to play at a high level because he’s not built in the mold of a game manager. Palmer is always going to take his shots, and in Arians’ offense, that’s the expectation of the quarterback. However, as a result of that, Palmer will need to demonstrate a better commitment to ball security and showcase the same decision-making skills that made him so efficient when the Cardinals made a run to the NFC Championship game in 2015. If Palmer proves to be turnover prone, the Cardinals can only go so far. However, if Palmer plays up to his potential for an extended period of time, Arizona’s offense has the pieces in place to make a serious run.

2. Drew Stanton

CardinalsSource.com analysis: Arizona’s decision to add Gabbert to the roster this offseason should be considered a wakeup call for Stanton, who has grown comfortable in his role as a backup to Palmer. Entering the 10th season of his NFL career, Stanton has never begun a NFL regular season as a starting quarterback, but he has demonstrated throughout his career that he’s competent of stepping in and providing average quarterback play in dire situations. Still, Stanton will need to fight to keep his job this fall, as Gabbert is younger, more mobile and possesses more arm strength, even though Stanton is a better decision-maker and has a much more intimate knowledge of Arians’ offensive system. Last fall, Stanton struggled with overthrows, as he showcased some mechanical flaws in his delivery that weren’t as prevalent when he took over for Palmer in 2014. Perhaps those flaws inspired the Cardinals’ decision to make Stanton battle for his job, which could turn out to help both the team and the player in the long run. Though Stanton has been open about his desire to be the franchise’s starting quarterback once Palmer retires, he’ll need to first prove he can hold onto a job as its backup before he tries to make a considerable leap up the depth chart.

3. Blaine Gabbert

CardinalsSource.com analysis: When the Cardinals announced they signed Gabbert earlier this month, widespread panic took hold of the team’s fanbase as some loyalists assumed the team believed Gabbert could wind up being the quarterback of the future for the franchise. However, even if Arians and Co. find a way to help Gabbert play up to his potential, CardinalsSource is of the belief that Arizona would never move forward with a vision that included Gabbert as the long-term answer at the quarterback position. Gabbert has far too many inconsistencies in his game to ever become one of the more polished passers in the league, and he’s not a quick-enough processor to thrive on the big stage. While the idea of using Gabbert as a bridge to whoever the Cardinals determine is their quarterback of the future isn’t a flawed one, it’s an idea the franchise may want to cycle through quickly. Though Gabbert’s career has largely been defined by the instability surrounding him, the ceiling on his skill set is clearly much lower at this point in his career than it was believed to be when he entered the league. 

4. Zac Dysert

CardinalsSource.com analysis: Because Dysert spent all of training camp with Miami last season, CardinalsSource never received a thorough opportunity to evaluate his skill set and determine if he’s a potential fit for Arians’ offense. Nevertheless, Arizona’s decision to promote Dysert to the active roster late last season suggests the Cardinals were impressed by Dysert’s body of work with the scout team, and felt as though his presence added value to the quarterback unit. Because Dysert was added when the Cardinals were essentially eliminated from playoff contention, there was no need for Arizona to protect its scout team quarterback from leaving when it no longer had a dire need for a scout team quarterback. That should serve as a vote of confidence for Dysert, who will likely never become an NFL starter, but may have the tools to develop into a capable backup. Dysert’s career has been long and winding and he’s bounced from team to team, so the Cardinals’ decision to promote him at the end of the 2016 season was likely one of the first times Dysert has felt a team valued what he brought to the table. As a result, even though Dysert may now be in a position to chase better opportunities with other franchises, he elected to remain in Arizona this offseason and try to continue learning and developing in the same offensive system.

5. Trevor Knight

CardinalsSource.com analysis: When Knight signed with the Cardinals following the NFL Draft this April, he entered a relatively advantageous situation for an undrafted free agent quarterback. Starter Carson Palmer is expected to retire in the near future, while primary backup Drew Stanton showcased accuracy issues last season. Perhaps most importantly, third-string option Zac Dysert has spent the last four seasons bouncing around the league, and he represented Knight’s primary competition for a practice squad opportunity. Shortly after the draft, however, Arizona signed veteran Blaine Gabbert, which complicates Knight’s situation because it appears as though the Cardinals are going to have an intense competition for the right to serve as Palmer’s backup. What that means is that reps for Dysert and Knight will likely be limited in training camp, which forces Knight to make the most of the reps he’s receiving in minicamps and OTAs, which are taking place when Knight hasn’t had an opportunity to develop a comprehensive knowledge of the playbook. Though it’s entirely possible Knight could end up leading Arizona’s practice squad this season, the opportunities he’ll have to showcase his talents and develop on the job during training camp will likely decrease as a result of the franchise’s decision to sign Gabbert.

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