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Cardinals at Vikings preview: Ryan Lindley gets his opportunity

GLENDALE, Ariz. — To say Saturday’s preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings will be Ryan Lindley’s last stand would not be accurate.

However, it may not be far from the truth.

The quarterback is set to play the majority of snaps in the second half, giving him a chance to keep his name in the race for the team’s third QB spot. Last week, against the Houston Texans, rookie fourth-round pick Logan Thomas got out to an early lead by completing 11-of-12 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

When asked what he’d like to see from Lindley, a sixth-round pick out of San Diego State in 2012, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said a similar effort to that of Thomas.

“A very steady player, a very accurate player, throwing to the right spots, just like Logan,” he said. “Have your eyes in the right spots; direct the football team. He’s always done a really good job of that.”

Lindley appeared in six games for the Cardinals as a rookie, completing just 52 percent of his passes for 752 yards with zero touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was a casualty of the team’s QB roller coaster that season, thrust into action long before he reasonably should have been.

Lindley did not appear in a game last season, so the lasting memory that fans have of the 6-foot-3, 232-pound player with a big arm is of an overmatched signal caller who struggled to do anything well.

“There’s ups and downs, and it’s been great and I’ve loved it here,” Lindley said of his ride, which saw him go from starter in 2012 to fighting for a job in 2014. “Hopefully that continues, but if not we’ll take it as it goes.”

Needless to say, he believes he’s a much better quarterback now than he was as a rookie.

“Whenever you understand the offense and whenever the guys around you are playing fast, it makes it a lot easier to play quarterback,” he said. “I think just the understanding of what’s going on and understanding of what B.A. looks for when he’s calling plays and everything else… But it’s been great. I’m just looking forward to seeing how that transitions onto the field.”

How it does may very well determine whether Lindley is a Cardinal much longer.

Conventional wisdom would say the team will not spend much more time with four quarterbacks on the roster. If the Cardinals decide to go with the rookie Thomas, they may want him to get as much work in practice and preseason as possible heading into the season. Once the games start to count, there will not be as much for him to do.

But for now, Lindley is still in the race, and Saturday is his chance to make an impression.

“I’m definitely excited, personally, for the opportunity,” he said. “I think any time you get a chance to get out there and put something on tape, it’s just you can further yourself even more.”

If the Cardinals decide to let him go, Lindley knows what he does Saturday could help him land a job somewhere else. He said he has personal goals and standards that he sets for himself, and the plan is to reach and exceed them every chance he gets.

This is an opportunity, Arians said, that Lindley should understand and be ready to take advantage of. Playing well is essentially a must.

“He should know that,” he said. “It’s obvious. Yeah, he better play good. If he plays bad, it’s not going to be real good for him.”

One more chance to make an impression and keep himself in the running to make the team. No pressure, right?

“No, no, of course not,” the QB said with a smile.

Things to watch for

– Arians did not offer snap count estimates for his starters for Saturday’s game in Minnesota, only saying he hopes to see the starters play as well as they did in the preseason opener so they can get off the field and allow the young players to see most of the snaps and make a case to stick with the team.

– Jay Feely is going to handle all of the kicking duties Saturday. Chandler Catanzaro, whom he is competing with for a job, was perfect on all three of his field-goal attempts and all three of his (extra long) extra points. He also put every kickoff deep into the end zone. It would behoove Feely to do the same.

– John Brown has excelled at every step of the way since being drafted by the Cardinals. Having another big game — this time on the road — would go a long way toward validating what everyone already thinks about the third-round pick.

– Arians said Jonathan Cooper’s toe injury is likely to keep him out of action Saturday. Earl Watford, Cooper’s replacement, was already battling with the former first-round pick for the left guard job. This may be his chance to earn it.

– Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton combined to complete 16-of-22 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans. They have to struggle a bit on the road against the Vikings, right? Right?

– Arizona’s running game didn’t do much obvious damage against the Texans, though Arians did not seem too concerned when asked about it. Still, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to see Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer show a bit more when given the ball.

– The inside linebacker spot will look a little different. Kevin Minter is likely out for this game, meaning Kenny Demens will see more snaps than usual. The former Michigan linebacker has been a standout on special teams and played well in practices, so this will be a good chance to see him in a different role.

– The Cardinals run a base 3-4 defense, as do last week’s opponent, the Houston Texans. The Vikings run a 4-3, so it will be interesting to see how the offensive line holds up.

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