x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

NFL: No quarter given at the Arizona Cardinals

Manager keeps his cards close to his chest for starting position against Seahawks next month.

Arizona Cardinals’ Kevin Kolb, left, and John Skelton are waiting to hear who will be starting quarterback for the new season.
Arizona Cardinals’ Kevin Kolb, left, and John Skelton are waiting to hear who will be starting quarterback for the new season.

The Arizona Cardinals still have no starting quarterback with less than two weeks to go before the regular season opener.

Ken Whisenhunt, the Arizona coach, said he is not ready to announce whether Kevin Kolb or John Skelton will start the September 9 game against the Seattle Seahawks. That makes Arizona the only team in the NFL that has not selected a starter.

"I have the sense that everyone is expecting a starting quarterback announcement today," Whisenhunt said on Monday. "We don't have one for you."

To make the situation a bit more perplexing, Whisenhunt says he does not expect either quarterback to play in the team's pre-season finale at home against the Denver Broncos tomorrow night.

That leaves two days of full practice and one walk-through to further evaluate Kolb and Skelton if the team is to have a starter when game planning begins in earnest for the season opener.

The rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley, a sixth-round draft pick out of San Diego State, will start against the Broncos as Whisenhunt goes with a mix of starters and back-ups.

However, Whisenhunt said: "I want to make sure I'm clear on this, Ryan Lindley is not going to emerge from this game as our starter no matter how he does."

The coach said that by having a fifth pre-season game, the opportunity exists to see players such as Lindley and the running back William Powell play alongside starters and against their opponent's better players.

Whisenhunt said that, with Lindley, "you have a young player that we felt strongly about in our evaluations".

"We had high grades on him. We were excited to get him where we did," he said, "and I think you can't escape the fact that with very limited reps he has performed well in the pre-season."

Kolb and Skelton have started two pre-season games each, and Whisenhunt decided against giving them a shot in the fifth game.

"I don't know how long Denver is going to play their starters," he said, "so as far as evaluation of the quarterbacks and trying to make it a level playing field, as for the number of reps and who they are playing against, I don't know how much that would serve with John or Kevin out of this game."

Whisenhunt told the quarterbacks before practice on Monday that there had been no decision. Both said they took the news in stride.

"I don't expect anything. I just roll with the punches," Kolb said. "Head coaches always see a little more than what we do, and I know he's got a plan."

Does Kolb really believe Whisenhunt has not made a decision?

"That's what he's telling us," Kolb said. "As a player you get used to doing that. You get used to just going to practice every time and not worrying about all the distractions and keep working."

Skelton acknowledged he would have liked to play tomorrow.

"Whenever you get to go against a live defence, to see something other than our practice team, it helps," he said, "but I understand the decision and we're just going to go forward from it."

Asked if he thought a decision would have been made by now, Skelton said, "Like anything else, I've been taking it all by stride."

"I think the team kind of knew the sooner we can get a decision made, the sooner we can go forward," he said, "but it hasn't worked out that way."

Whisenhunt declared it an open competition between the quarterbacks at the end of last season after, mostly with Skelton at quarterback, Arizona won seven of their last nine to finish 8-8.

Skelton was 5-2 as a starter, 6-2 if you count the late-season win over the San Francisco 49ers, when Kolb started but went down with a concussion on the first series. Kolb missed almost half the season with injuries.

The team have a large investment in Kolb, signing him to a big contract after acquiring him in a trade that sent the cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Skelton, in his third season after being drafted in the fifth round out of Fordham, is a strong-armed but sometimes inaccurate passer who while struggling early in games, developed a knack for late-game comebacks.