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Redskins could learn from Cardinals' ability to win with backups

TEMPE, Ariz. -- On one side of University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, there’ll be a team that figured out how to survive without its starting quarterback.

On the other side will be a team that may take a few notes.

The Arizona Cardinals and the Washington Redskins have both been forced to start their second-string quarterbacks for the majority of their games this season because of injuries to starters Carson Palmer and Robert Griffin III, respectively. But only the Cardinals have figured out how to win and it’s mainly because of the differences between the Palmer and his backup, Drew Stanton.

In short, there aren’t many.

While a little smaller, Stanton shares a similar style with Palmer. Both are, for the most part, traditional drop-back passers. Both can adequately scramble, although Stanton may be a tad more athletic than Palmer. And both would rather wait out a play for a pass before taking off.

Because of that, the Cardinals’ offense didn’t have to be altered much when Palmer went down after Week 1. But since Palmer and Stanton share a similar skillset, Washington doesn’t need to prepare two different game plans this week. And even if Arizona goes with third-string Logan Thomas on Sunday, he’s more of a drop-back passer than a mobile quarterback but when he does use his feet, Washington’s defense will be prepared having gone against Griffin III.

“They’re kind of like us,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “Not like us. They’re a little bit different with their skill-set quarterbacks but they haven’t changed a whole lot from what they do offensively with their quarterbacks who are both very similar.

“That’s what backup quarterbacks are supposed to do. They’re supposed to come in and take over the offense like nothing is different. They don’t get as many reps but they have to be prepared and they have to be ready when their number’s called. I think both those guys have done that, [Washington quarterback] Kirk [Cousins] and Stanton. We don’t know who it’s going to be and whoever it is, I know Coach Arians will have him ready.”

Arizona is down to Thomas, who is likely to get the start Sunday against Washington because Stanton hasn’t gone through the concussion protocol yet and Palmer hasn’t fully practiced since before Week 1 because of a nerve injury in his shoulder.

But Stanton, who started Arizona’s last three games, was a suitable replacement, winning both games he started and finished before he was knocked out of Sunday’s game in Denver in the third quarter with a concussion.

For as similar as Palmer, Stanton and even Thomas are, Griffin III and Cousins aren’t.

One’s a mobile quarterback who likes making plays with his mobility. The other is a drop-pack passer.

When Griffin III went down in Week 2 with a dislocated ankle, it opened the door for Cousins. In his three starts this season, all losses, Cousins has thrown for 427, 243 and 275 yards, respectively. After he came in for Griffin in Week 2, he racked up 250 yards. Whereas Griffin had 22 rushing yards in Week 2 before he got hurt and Cousins has 20 total in four weeks.

“Obviously, Robert has a different skill set, but we were also in the process of trying to turn Robert into more of a pocket passer and still keep some of the athletic plays alive for him,” Gruden said.

Gruden said the schemes haven’t changed much with Cousins, but he differs enough from Griffin III to where it hasn’t led to a win.

“We didn’t have to change a whole lot,” Gruden said. “There are just a couple packages we may not call with Kirk, but for the most part the offense has stayed the same.”