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All-Access with Bruce Arians: Blaine Gabbert is still auditioning

(AP Photo)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Head coach Bruce Arians, now in his fifth year with the Arizona Cardinals, meets the media several times leading up to game day.

Here, in this space, with help from the Cardinals’ media relations staff, we’ll highlight many of the key topics and personnel conversations he has with reporters following practice.

Opening statement:

“No injuries to report from the game. Hopefully, we’ll get Corey Peters back and Deone (Bucannon) back this week and see what they can do in practice, and maybe John Brown. Looking at the tape, it was everything that we talked about yesterday. The center (Justin Drescher), he’s got to anchor down. Jacksonville had a great rush. We had no problems with Jacksonville, and all of a sudden, it shows up in this game where he gets run over. He’s just got to anchor down and hold his spot. It’s as simple as that. We do it a couple times, and we don’t do it two times. The kick wasn’t low. Everything was on time. He has to cover his gap. It was a very legal play, nothing illegal about the play.

The punt return was just poor technique. Our wing on that side just totally lost contain and fell inside. They blocked a gunner, and once he reversed field, it was free sailing from there. You have to contain it. You can’t follow your own color down the field. You learn that in high school, and a couple of our guys were following each other down the field. It’s something we work every day on. So, those were the special teams plays.

Offensively, Kerwynn (Williams) was the bright spot and our offensive line blocking. I thought we ran the ball as good as we have at times all year against a very good front. They did make some adjustments in the second half and moved the big tackle out over our tight end. Troy (Niklas) hung in there pretty good, but those runs became twos and threes and fours, instead of eights and nines that we were getting, and it was a good adjustment on their part. We’ve just got to finish our blocks better when we get matched up like that.

I thought Blaine (Gabbert) had his roughest day and up and down. Obviously, he started poorly. He’s gifted with the athletic ability, but once he gets out of there, he’s got to get his eyes downfield more because once he scrambled, he had some people open, and he’s looking to run instead of extend the play. That’s one of things, hopefully, he can learn the more he plays.

Defensively, again, stopping the run other than two plays. We just flat miss a tackle before the half on a toss crack that should have been a two-yard gain. It ends up being a 15-yard gain. But, we have a mental error on the screen pass that led to points. Other than that, I thought our guys played hard. I was really pleased with the effort, but our execution could be better, and that’s exactly what we just talked about. I can’t ask for any more effort, but we can ask for better execution.

On if RB Adrian Peterson could return this week:

“We’ll see. It’s strictly up to him and the doctors.”

On how he can get better execution from his team:

“Defensively, it’s communication, again. When our crowd gets really loud, it’s hard. You think you’re hollering out. You think guys hear checks, and they don’t get them. And then there’s a gap loose. Or coverage, they get a deep seven route because we don’t get the signal and don’t get it communicated, who’s going to swap off what. Offensively, it wasn’t a matter of a lot of busts. Especially in the third down-passing game, we had some young guys just not run routes properly – the depths, the releases. I thought Larry (Fitzgerald) played a heck of a game, but the rest of the guys have to get better on third down especially.”

On what he thought about QB Blaine Gabbert’s two interceptions:

“The first one was just really bad. He knew he had that post. He just (has to) set his feet and throw it and quit running. And then, he kind of went, ‘I’ve got the post. Let me look over here,’ and he kept running for whatever reason. He had plenty of time to set his feet and throw the post. We had the coverage we were looking for, and it’s just a really poor decision to throw that ball that way. That’s the right guy, but not that way. The second one, D.J. (Foster) ran his route a little bit short and broke inside. (Alec) Ogletree started rushing and then fell back out, and he never saw him. So, he dropped back out of there and right into the hole and made a hell of a play.”

On if any of Gabbert’s throws or decisions over the last three games concerns him:

“No. Those were the first. The second one was really just really good defense. We’d like to have seen D.J. push that guy up a little bit further and break in, instead of taking it right now so close to the line of scrimmage. That’s part of that execution I’m talking about that led to an interception. The first one was strictly on Blaine.”

On if he sees Gabbert as a young quarterback learning something for the first time or as a veteran quarterback who has been through this before:

“He’s a veteran quarterback that’s learning it for the first time, and that’s exactly what he is. He’s spent one spring and three games in this offense. There were some things that were happening in the game that … There are always things that you don’t practice, that you just have to know from knowing your offense, and he’s not quite there yet.”

On the jumps that quarterbacks typically make in his offense from year one to year two:

“Usually pretty big, the understanding. He did it pretty well from spring for a first-year guy. There are always those nuances that you don’t know. When you start working with different guys every week, that’s a problem for any quarterback”

On if the way Gabbert finishes the season matters when evaluating him as a player who can be counted on:

“Oh, yeah. Yeah.”

On if Gabbert is still auditioning:

“Totally. For a lot of guys.”

On if he’s seen anything from Gabbert demonstrating his ability to bounce back from mistakes:

“Yeah. Talking with some of the guys, he’s great in the huddle, really good in the huddle. On the sideline, he’ll flat out tell you, ‘Man, I screwed that up,’ or ‘I thought I saw this,’ and that’s what you want. You want him to tell you the truth and accept responsibility. He does that totally.”

On why Gabbert’s stats were better when throwing inside the numbers rather than outside the numbers:

“Some of it was the way they were playing. They were playing a lot of Cover 2, so you’re going to be throwing the ball inside.”

On if he has talked to QB Drew Stanton about how the rest of the season will play out at quarterback:

“Oh yeah. Yeah, we’ve talked a lot.”

On how it will play out and Gabbert’s role:

“Blaine is going to be the guy this week.”

On how Stanton reacted:

“Drew’s great. Drew’s a team player.”

On if he anticipates any scenario where Carson Palmer will return from IR for the finals weeks of the season:

“I would hope so. That’d be a blessing because we haven’t lost in Seattle, I don’t think, with him playing ever.”

On if the team will look for a replacement at long snapper:

“Aaron (Brewer) can come off of IR in two weeks. It’s always like, ‘What is behind door No. 2?’ We worked out three guys and he (Drescher) was the best one. He’s just got to do his job. That’s it.”

On if there’s anyone else he wants to activate off of the IR other than Palmer:

“David Johnson, T.J. (Logan). You can’t get them all, but I’d like to have them all back – (Mike) Iupati. It doesn’t look, right now … Aaron is about the only guy that looks like he’s going to be able to come off in two weeks.”

On being the longest tenured coach in the Valley and the coaching business:

“It’s a ‘What’ve you done for me lately?’ business. What happened today in New York, I think they (New York Giants) won the division last year, didn’t they? You can’t control injuries, and you can’t control a lot of things. It’s the nature of the beast when you get in it.”

On if the nature of the coaching business has changed a lot during his career:

“No. The firing of assistants has changed a bunch in the last five years, during the season.”

On if seasons like 2016 and 2017 make it more likely that he’ll come back:

“It won’t have any effect on it. If anything, it makes me hungrier because I know what’s coming back. All those guys come off that list.”

On if his decision to return for the 2018 will be based on his health:

“There’ll be other factors, but yeah. When I do it, you guys will be the first to know. Maybe the second.”

On who will be the first to know if he decides to return as head coach:

“My wife.”

On if there’s any risk that the team could lose Gabbert to free agency because of his one year-deal:

“Oh yeah. Yeah. That’s things Steve (Keim) and I talk about all the time.”

On if the team is actively talking to Gabbert to see if he’ll sign a long-term contract:

“It could possibly happen, yeah.”

On what the team’s depth chart will look like after the season when he considers all the players on IR:

“When you start talking about the team that we had coming back this year, extremely excited about. You just can’t control those injuries and the way the ball bounces. We should have had three turnovers (yesterday). Karlos (Dansby) catches that ball nine out of ten times. He didn’t catch this one. Chandler (Jones) gets a huge sack-fumble down inside, and we don’t get that ball on the ground. Those are big plays in that game that we didn’t make.”

On if there would be a quarterback competition if Gabbert re-signs with the team and QB Carson Palmer returns in 2018:

“No. If that was the case, it would be some competition, but to me, if Carson’s coming back, he’s coming back to be the starter.”

On if he thinks Palmer will be activated:

“He’s working his tail off. He doesn’t have a cast, so hopefully.”

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