The Arizona Cardinals are getting contributions from players who were nothing more than an afterthought when the season began
No one who follows the Arizona Cardinals could’ve pictured this. The stars of Sunday’s 27-24 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars won’t be winning any NFL popularity contests anytime soon. Good luck trying to find any of their replica jerseys being sold at your local sporting goods store.
Instead, Cards’ fans these days find themselves cheering for players who weren’t even on the organization’s 2017 radar. Blaine Gabbert, the team’s third-string quarterback, is now starting and playing well. Tight end Ricky Seals-Jones has burst onto the scene with flair, and running back D.J. Foster is being thrown to with the game on the line.
Gabbert, in particular, has observers taking notice. The seventh-year journeyman was able to overcome a bit of adversity early on in the fourth quarter of the Jags’ matchup. Old friend Calais Campbell returned a Gabbert fumble for a touchdown, putting Jacksonville ahead of Arizona for the first time.
But rather than allowing the mishap to be a knockout blow, Gabbert found Jaron Brown for a 52-yard score just six plays later. Then, with the game on the line late, the former first-round draft pick threw two pinpoint darts. The clutch passes enabled Phil Dawson to nail a game-winning 57-yard field goal, giving the Cardinals the hard-fought victory.
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Gabbert’s performance versus one of the league’s best defenses was definitely impressive. Could the 28-year old be the heir apparent to the club’s starting signal-caller of the past five campaigns, Carson Palmer? Gabbert has just two starts in Cardinal red under his belt, but early returns are certainly favorable.
A season-ending injury to third-string tight end Ifeanyi Momah has created an opportunity for Seals-Jones. The undrafted free agent developed a rapport with Gabbert during the preseason that’s been reaping rewards. The exciting rookie hauled in four passes for 72 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, after catching three balls for 54 yards and two scores last week.
Foster, an Arizona native, was plucked off of the New England Patriots’ practice squad on September 12th. The running back had two receptions for 26 yards last week against the Houston Texans, and three more for 18 yards during the triumph this past weekend. His toe-tapping, sideline snag set up Dawson’s winning kick over the Jaguars.
It’s funny how things happen during a football season. Three players that were barely thought of during the offseason are now playing prominent roles. And the Cardinals are thrilled about it.