TEMPE — Impressed by Blaine Gabbert in the quarterback’s first two starts, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was asked Monday how comfortable he would be with Gabbert at quarterback should Carson Palmer retire.
“The way he’s playing right now,” Arians said, “I’d be very, very comfortable.”
And Arians labeled that scenario “a possibility” for the coming season.
The players had the day off as “victory Monday” following the Cardinals’ 27-24 win over Jacksonville on Sunday. That left Arians to talk about Gabbert, who has bounced through seven offensive coordinators in his seven NFL seasons.
He was out of work and labeled a first-round bust when Arizona signed him as the No. 3 quarterback last offseason. Intrigued by Gabbert’s strong arm and athleticism, Arians decided it was worth keeping him around to develop.
Then Carson Palmer went down with a season-ending broken arm and backup Drew Stanton injured a knee. That cleared the way for Gabbert, who has played well enough that he’s keeping the job as Stanton gets healthy.
“I’m really proud of him,” Arians said of Gabbert’s performances. “These things don’t happen — you hope they don’t happen very often when your top two guys, but we’re very blessed to have him, and he is taking the bull by the horns and showing us, ‘I’m a player. I can play at this level and I can play very high.’”
Sunday’s victory was only Gabbert’s 10th in 42 starts, a statistic Arians blames on all those different offenses and bad teams.
Gabbert completed 22 of 38 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He also fumbled the ball that ex-Cardinal Calais Campbell returned 10 yards for what was then the go-ahead touchdown on Sunday.
Three throws that Gabbert made stand out. The first was a long one over the middle with a fierce rush in his face. Jaron Brown hauled in the pass for a 52-yard touchdown.
It was a play, “only a few guys can make,” Arians said, “because Calais came fairly unblocked and he (Gabbert) knew. He had enough instinct not to draw back with the ball and still had enough strength to put it out there and not get it tipped. That was a fantastic play by him.”
Then, with the game tied and 16 seconds on the clock and Arizona at its own 39-yard line, Gabbert threw a 10-yard sideline completion to the Cardinals 49. On the next play, Gabbert rolled right and drilled a pass to D.J. Foster, who made a spectacular grab at the sideline to put the ball at the Jacksonville 39 with six seconds to go.
Phil Dawson’s subsequent career-long 57-yard field goal won the game with one second to play.
Arians said Gabbert still has huge upside. He noted he’d like to see the quarterback have a better hold on the ball when he takes off scrambling. And the Cardinals need more practice blocking for a scrambling quarterback, something Arians hasn’t had in Arizona.
Arians praised the offensive and defensive lines for their play against the Jaguars, who had won four straight and fell into a first-place tie with Tennessee atop the AFC South. It is the first team with a winning record that the Cardinals have beaten this season.
But there are injuries for Arizona (5-6) to contend with in preparation for Sunday’s home game against the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams (8-3).
Chief among them is an injury to inside linebacker Deone Bucannon’s ankle, the same one that was surgically repaired last offseason.
“It does not look like Deone’s injury is as severe as it once looked,” Arians said. “We’re still waiting on some images coming back. We sent everything off to the surgeon who did his repair because all his injury is to that part of the leg. It could be a day or two, it could be serious. So we don’t know yet.”
Arians said Josh Bynes “played lights out” in Bucannon’s place. Rookie Haason Reddick also might shift back to playing more at inside linebacker rather than outside.
Defensive tackle Josh Mauro re-sprained an ankle in the game and running back/kick returner Kerwynn Williams “cracked a couple of ribs,” Arians said.