TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals had a spy in their midst all along.
Well, sort of.
Ryan Lindley has spent his entire NFL career with the Cardinals, giving him an up-close view of the team’s operation. He learned the team’s offense and the coaches’ tendencies while picking up on the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates.
Lindley was released by the Cardinals on Aug. 25, but less than a week later found a home in San Diego with the Chargers’ practice squad. The Chargers, as you are probably well aware, will be Arizona’s Week 1 opponent on Monday Night Football.
Think Lindley might spill a few secrets? The Cardinals do.
“We’ll always change things anytime there’s a known thing when somebody has something or somebody coached with somebody before, then you change some things,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
Player movement is very much a part of the league, and often times someone ends up facing their former team shortly after being a member of it. However, it is rare to have timing work out the way it has with the Cardinals and Chargers, and even more uncommon to have the player who moved on be a quarterback.
“He’s been in the system for two years, and that’s part of the game, that’s part of the league,” Cardinals QB Carson Palmer said. “You have code words and you change them up depending on your opponent, depending on in-division games, whether a guy goes to another team, whatever it may be.
“I’m sure they’ll be well-prepared for us and we’ll be well-prepared to counter some of the things we’ve done in the past.”
There is little doubt that Lindley could offer some inside information on the Cardinals, and some could in turn view Arizona’s acquisition of linebacker Thomas Keiser, who was recently released by San Diego, as their way of trying to take advantage of the same idea.
“I think Ryan probably knows a lot more about both sides of the ball than Tom does,” Arians quipped. “He knows how to rush the passer; I don’t know what he’s going to tell me about Philip (Rivers’) offense, but Ryan does know a lot about both sides of the ball. But no, I think that’s both teams making themselves better.”
In a way, it’s unfair and insulting to Lindley to insinuate the Chargers only signed him because of his knowledge of the Cardinals. Though the former San Diego State QB has had his struggles, he has good size for the position at 6-foot-3 and 229 pounds, and at 25 years old is young enough to believe there may be some improvement left in him.
The Chargers brought him in as a developmental prospect, not as someone to help Rivers beat a good defense.
“I think there’s probably more made of it than there is,” the Chargers starting QB said of the Lindley-Cardinals connection. “Obviously he’s a guy that’s been there. I think it’s more he has a feel for the guys maybe a little more than anything.”
Rivers went on to say Lindley could give information on what routes certain cornerbacks like to jump or what pass rushers to watch out for, but in terms of scheme and such, there probably isn’t much to be gleaned.
“You’ve still got to go out there and see it and throw it and read it and make the plays,” he said.
That right there is the trick. While the Cardinals understand Lindley’s knowledge of their team could help the Chargers, they’re all happy to see him land with an NFL team. Maybe they wish it wasn’t their Week 1 opponent, but jobs are scarce in the NFL and they’re glad their former teammate still has one.
“He’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever had playing,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “Very high football IQ, high character, and for him to have a job I’m grateful for that. But it’s definitely going to put a little wrinkle in our operation I will say because he’s a quarterback; he knows everything that’s going on.
“But it’s one thing to know it and another thing to stop it and to know when it’s coming, so I don’t think we’re going to deviate from the plan much.”