Cardinals are Stanton’s baby now

TEMPE, Ariz. — There have been big weeks in Drew Stanton’s life. It’s hard to imagine any of them holding a candle to this one.

In the span of two days, Stanton was handed the keys to the NFL’s top team (at least record-wise) and welcomed his second child into the world. On Sunday, he’ll cap off the NFL week by playing the team that selected him in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft (43rd overall) seven seasons ago.

That led a reporter to ask Stanton if his life felt like a reality show this week.

"No, I’m good," he said Wednesday. "I was probably a little bit more nervous when I had to ask my father-in-law to marry my wife." 

The Stantons named their baby girl Emeric East. Emeric is Stanton’s middle name (after his grandfather) and East is for East Lansing, because Stanton and his wife, Kristin, both went to Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich. But the Cardinals are Stanton’s baby now, too, and that’s also a big responsibility.

Carson Palmer is done for the season with an ACL tear, so if Stanton goes out, the Cardinals can pretty much kiss their season goodbye. That means being smarter in the pocket and smarter when he runs. It also means having a greater willingness and ability to slide than he has shown in the past — a weakness that had the QBs practicing on a slip and slide earlier this season.

"I guess we have to get the tarps back out and start sliding because, by Carson’s account, I was the worst one, which I probably was," Stanton said. "There’s a fine line with that. You have to be smarter, there’s no question, but you also are going to play the way that you play. 

"(Bruce Arians) got in my ear a little bit yesterday when I scrambled and said, ‘There’s no one left after you,’ with some more explicit words than that. I’m cognizant of that, and I think that you have to adapt in this league and be smarter with your body."

There is little doubt that Stanton is smarter than he was seven years ago as a Lions rookie, or that he has progressed as a quarterback despite limited action. Both Stanton and Arians said much of that progression came when Arians had him in Indianapolis in 2012.

"His first spring with (QB) Andrew (Luck) out, he wasn’t really as accurate as he needed to be. He and (QBs coach) Clyde Christensen worked hours on footwork, mechanics, and he got really, really accurate," Arians said. "Then, halfway through the season on the scout team, I was like, ‘Will you quit completing balls against our defense, man? Just quit throwing them deep. Throw an interception or two just to make us feel good.’ 

"He kind of laughed it off, but you saw him grow, and how much growth was still there. The preparation was meticulous and the way he handled Andrew on the sidelines, no matter what was going to happen here, whether he was the starter or in that same role, I knew he was more than capable for that."

Stanton was initially named the starter when the Cardinals signed him as a free agent in March of 2013. But Arians told him all along that the team was going to get another guy, even naming some names (Palmer was not one of those names).

Stanton waited nearly four seasons to take a regular-season snap after his last game on Dec. 19, 2010 against Tampa Bay, while a member of the Lions. But when he finally got the call earlier this season after Palmer suffered a bruised shoulder nerve against the Chargers in Week 1, he delivered. Stanton went 2-1 as a starter, leading the Cardinals to wins in New York against the Giants and at home against the 49ers. The Cardinals were within striking distance of the Broncos in Denver when he went out with a concussion.

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"He got the job done early, and we know that he is definitely going to get the job done late as well," said cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has played a little QB in the wildcat formation. "Like I tell him each and every Sunday, when his number is called, if no one else believes in him, (No.) 21 believes in him. I’m quite sure that the team believes in him as well, but I feel that I am a fellow quarterback, so I’ve got to tell him."

Arians maintains that the offense won’t change with Stanton, even if he doesn’t throw the deep ball quite like Palmer does. It was Stanton, after all, who threw the game-winning, 48-yard strike to John Brown against the Rams.

"We’re not really going to lose that part of it," Arians said. "Carson (Palmer) was and is amazing at it, at dropping it in the bucket, but we can still go downtown, and we still have that threat in our offense."

National pundits have never really been onboard with the idea of the Cardinals’ winning the Super Bowl this season, even though the team has the best record in the NFL (8-1) and could host that game in its own stadium.

If any were onboard, however, they jumped off when Palmer went down. You’d be hard pressed to find one who expects Arizona to advance to the final game.

"Well, we haven’t gotten in it anyway, so we’re going to play next week and see what happens," Arians said. "That part of it, I really don’t care. One thing about our locker room is that they really don’t care what anybody else thinks. They know what they know, and they’ve been pretty good at it."

Arians insists that won’t change with Stanton.

"He’s proven to everybody that he’s more than capable of doing and finishing the job that this team has started," he said.

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