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When ‘2’ is used to find ‘3’: The evaluation of the Cardinals’ No. 3 QB

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Aaron Murray looks for a receiver during the NFL football team's training camp Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, in St. Joseph, Mo. (Dougal Brownlie/The St. Joseph News-Press via AP)

TEMPE, Ariz. – All either Zac Dysert and Aaron Murray were looking for was an opportunity. It just so happened they each believed that opportunity was with the Arizona Cardinals, and thus officially signed on Tuesday.

The two young quarterbacks both landed on the practice squad after clearing waivers following their release from Miami and Kansas City, respectively.

“They were certainly the highest-rated guys that we had looked at that were practice squad eligible and there (is) no doubt the practice squad is a great tool for developing players and finding out whether a guy has what it takes to contribute on the 53-man roster,” GM Steve Keim told Doug & Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

By opting not to carry a third quarterback on the active roster, a decision reached by six other NFL teams, the Cardinals needed to find a quarterback to run the scout team. That they chose two quarterbacks as part of their 10-man practice squad was eye-opening, though fell in line with the team’s philosophy of always being on the lookout to add the best players, regardless of position.

Of course, no other team has more than one quarterback on their practice squad, if any at all.

“That’s something I can’t really control, so I try not to worry about it,” Dysert said. “I’m just going to try to learn the offense as fast as I can and show the coaches that I deserve to be here, I can play in this league and I help the team.”

Added Murray: “It’s the NFL. There’s competition everywhere. You have to go out there and compete to earn your job everyday, so I’m excited to got out there and compete and show these coaches what I can do.”

Dysert, 26, called his decision to join the Cardinals “kind of a personal thing.” He knows Drew Stanton, having worked out with him in the offseason, and is familiar with Carson Palmer.

Originally a seventh-round pick (234th overall) by Denver in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Miami (Ohio), Dysert spent his rookie season as the Broncos third quarterback and was on Denver’s practice squad for the entire 2014 campaign. Last season, Dysert was on the practice squads of the Texans and Bills before spending the offseason and training camp this year with the Dolphins until he was released during final roster cuts.

Dysert, a four-year starter in college, has not seen any NFL action.

“This was where I thought was going to be the best fit,” he said, referring to the Cardinals. “The offense kind of suited me.”

Murray, too, cited the offense for his reason to become a Cardinal.

“Great offense, great coach, some great older quarterbacks,” he said. “Carson has been in the league awhile, has been very successful. I’m just going to come in and just soak it all in, learn as much as possible; lot of studying, a lot of just getting my nose in the playbook.”

Murray, 25, entered the league with Kansas City in the fifth-round (163rd overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Georgia, where he set numerous SEC all-time records including passing yards, completions and touchdown passes.

Murray did not see any game action in his two seasons with the Chiefs, spending his time there as the No. 3 quarterback.

“I got to go up against Aaron a lot,” said safety Tyvon Branch, a teammate of Murray’s a year ago. “He was the scout team quarterback. He’s a good quarterback, smart guy. With the coaches here, they’ll develop him into a good quarterback.”

Dysert and Murray are each receiving a crash course in the Cardinals offense. Their tutors include quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens, assistant head coach Tom Moore and coaching intern Byron Leftwich.

“Both of them are learning a totally different language,” head coach Bruce Arians said.

Just how often either Dysert and Murray will be able to showcase what they’ve learned is up in the air. Now that regular season preparations have begun, most of the Cardinals quarterback work is split between Palmer and Stanton with Dysert and Murray running that week’s opposing offense against the Cardinals defense.

“The snaps that I do get and the reps that I do get, just try to make the most out of those and just learn every day,” Dysert said.

Right now, it’s more of an evaluation of the two, according to Arians.

Keim agreed.

“You can never tell, particularly at that position, the quarterback position, what you have with a player until you spend time with him,” he said, “and both these young guys have potential and we’ll certainly find out the next few weeks what they look like.”

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