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Dealing Cards: Drew Stanton practices, Budda Baker to assume larger role

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (5) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. – With the game still five days away and no injury report needed to be released, head coach Bruce Arians shined very little light on who will play quarterback this week when the Arizona Cardinals visit Houston.

The Cardinals practiced Tuesday and according to Arians, starter Drew Stanton was “one of the guys that practiced.” He offered no further details other than to acknowledge that Stanton’s right knee “affected him on two or three throws” last Thursday against Seattle.

Stanton hurt the knee on a late hit by defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson on the second-to-last play of the first quarter. Stanton finished the game, but then reports surfaced over the weekend he may miss some time, opening the door for Blaine Gabbert to get the start Sunday.

The Cardinals also signed quarterback Matt Barkley.

Arians, though, wasn’t about to tip his hand.

“Yeah, and he got a bunch last week, but he’ll get more this week,” he said, referring to Gabbert’s first-team reps. “We’ll try to get Matt something along the lines.”

None of the three quarterbacks were in the locker room during media availability. And the first official injury report won’t be released until Wednesday.

Cardinals insider and co-host of the The Blitz on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station Mike Jurecki reported Gabbert is expected to start this week.

“He’s our quarterback. We believe in him. I thought he did a great job in training camp,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “Obviously anytime you play a quarterback that can use their legs, it always adds an extra dimension to the offense. Hopefully he’s ready to go, and we’ll be encouraging him and try and give him the confidence that he needs to just go out there and play football.”

Budda Baker is ready

Never before in his football career had safety Budda Baker had to wait to get on the field. Yet, that was the case this season, his first in the NFL.

Sure, Baker played a handful of snaps here and there but most of his work has come on special teams, where he’s excelled. Now, with the injury to Tyvon Branch, Baker is expected to assume a much larger role on the defense.

“I’ll definitely be ready,” he said. “Going to have a great week of preparation and hopefully a great game.”

Baker played most of the game against the Seahawks—Branch got hurt in the first quarter—and tied for the team-lead in tackles with seven, while adding a pass defensed in 44 snaps.

In nine games this season, Baker has played a total of 84 defensive snaps.

“(He’s) more than ready,” Arians said. “Rookies around Thanksgiving and the middle and first of November, they shouldn’t be rookies anymore.”

For Baker, having veterans like Branch and Antoine Bethea to lean on has helped his transition from college to the pros.

“On the field, I know the plays and I know what I’m doing,” Baker said. “It’s just having a veteran, like Antoine Bethea, he wants to make sure I’m right. When I call the call, he just wants to make sure that I’m 100-percent right in what I’m doing. I’m very comfortable. I know the plays. The veterans just try to reiterate it to me when I’m on the field.”

A lack of takeaways

Among the 32 NFL teams, the Cardinals rank near the bottom in takeaways.

“I don’t really know (why). I guess other teams are taking care of the football,” Mathieu said. “A few balls haven’t been bouncing our way. A few tipped passes are going over our heads. We just got to stay within the moment, and like I said, those turnovers will come in bunches for us.”

On the season, the Cardinals defense has forced nine turnovers, eight of them interceptions. Their one fumble recovery—at San Francisco—is the fewest in the league.

“We know turnovers come in bunches, so hopefully this week is the week that we have a five or six turnover game. We just got to be ready for the opportunity,” Mathieu said.

Pro Bowl voting

Fans may now vote to send their favorite Cardinals players to the 2018 Pro Bowl in Orlando.

Voting is available online and on web-enabled mobile phones by going to NFL.com/ProBowlVote through Dec. 14.

Pro Bowl rosters will be announced on Dec. 19 live on NFL Network’s Pro Bowl special “NFL Total Access: Pro Bowl Players Revealed” at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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