Football

NFL Insider: Stepfan Taylor gets his chance with Cardinals

Stepfan Taylor has four touchdowns this season, with three coming via reception.
Stepfan Taylor has four touchdowns this season, with three coming via reception. AP

The Arizona Cardinals need Stepfan Taylor. They need him more than ever.

With quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton out, Arizona is starting its third quarterback. Ryan Lindley played last week for the first time since four starts in 2012 after the Cardinals made him a sixth-round pick.

Lindley has attempted 181 passes in his career and has no touchdowns. That’s the longest streak in NFL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

“The offense always needs us to run the ball well, to get this offense going,” Taylor said in a phone interview. “It’s important this week. We want to be able to control the game. If we’re running the ball well, we’re keeping our defense off the field.

“…We really want to make sure this running game is working on all cylinders.”

The former Mansfield High star moved into the starting lineup earlier this month when Andre Ellington needed surgery for a hernia. Taylor has started the past two games, getting 20 carries for 80 yards in victories over the Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis Rams.

“It’s just being patient and waiting for my opportunity and go out and make the most of it,” Taylor said. “I go out to practice every week and help prepare this team, and when your opportunities come, you’ve got to play football.”

Taylor, a fifth-round pick of the Cardinals in 2013, was the team’s third-leading rusher last season behind Rashard Mendenhall and Ellington.

After the Cardinals declined to re-sign Mendenhall, and he retired, Ellington and Taylor went into training camp competing for the starting job. Ellington started the first 12 games and gained 660 yards before going on injured reserve.

“You never wish that for any player,” Taylor said. “We have a lot of injuries on the team. It’s next-man-up mentality. That’s the NFL for you. You try to stay healthy, and you go out and play.”

Taylor’s role now is the role he envisioned after the arrived from Stanford.

“I just came in and always prepared to be the starter,” Taylor said. “I always prepared to be that guy, so when the opportunities come and situations arise, I’m ready. I keep the same mindset. I try to be the most complete back possible that I can be. I want to go out there in any situation and produce.”

Lucking out

The Indianapolis Colts might be the luckiest franchise in history, no pun intended. Peyton Manning started every game for 13 seasons before a neck injury knocked him out for the 2011 season. Indianapolis posted the worst record that season, earning them the No. 1 overall pick and Andrew Luck.

“It’s the luck of the horseshoe. Things turned right side up, right?” said Chuck Pagano, who became the Colts’ coach in 2012. “The stars obviously had to align just right. Every time I think about No. 1, the stars had to line up right for me to even have an opportunity to talk to these guys when this job was available and open.

“When you talk about Andrew, you talk about he stayed in an extra year to finish his senior year. The season that [the Colts] unfortunately had in 2011, and all those things that transpired, and you end up with the No. 1 pick.

“I guess it’s the luck of the shoe, if you will. No matter how it happened, we’re very, very blessed and fortunate to have Andrew as our quarterback.”

Luck has established himself as a franchise quarterback, with his 12,688 passing yards, the most for any Super Bowl-era quarterback in his first three seasons. The Houston Stratford product has won at least 10 games in each of his first three seasons, joining Seattle’s Russell Wilson as the only Super Bowl-era signal quarterbacks to accomplish that feat.

Peyton who?

“I try not to think about it as following Peyton or filling Peyton’s shoes, because that’s not even possible, what he did,” Luck said on a conference call last week. “What he still does is otherworldly. It was made a lot easier by a locker room that embraced me for who I was. There was no pressure to be what Peyton was or to do what he did, it was, ‘Hey, do the best you can and hopefully that’s good enough.’ Good guys in the locker room made it easy.

“I think having a dad [Oliver] who has sort of been in the NFL, and maybe understanding the business side of things, you realize that players come and go. It’s just the nature of the business. I replaced someone, and someone else is going to replace me eventually, hopefully a long time from now. It’s just the nature of the business.”

Before they were in Indianapolis, the Colts had Johnny Unitas as their quarterback. He and Manning are in the conversation for the greatest of all time.

Luck appears on his way to greatness.

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @NFLCharean

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