Steady reputation can land Stepfan Taylor spot in Cardinals backfield

"Stepfan's always been a steady guy," coach Bruce Arians said. "Never flashy. He had a really good game over at the Raiders (last season in Week 7) and he's just a steady guy that you can count on every day." Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There are few better compliments an NFL player can receive than how Arizona Cardinals running back Stepfan Taylor has been described throughout training camp.

"Stepf is just as steady as anybody is on this team," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "He plays it all, he does it all."

Taylor's head coach agrees.

"Stepfan's always been a steady guy," coach Bruce Arians said. "Never flashy. He had a really good game over at the Raiders (last season in Week 7) and he's just a steady guy that you can count on every day.

"Great special teams player but he's still in a battle for a job."

When Taylor reported for training camp at the end of July, he knew there would be one extra hurdle in rookie David Johnson standing between him and more playing time. With Arizona signing Chris Johnson two weeks ago, there are now two.

But Taylor won't let David Johnson's drafting or Chris Johnson's signing affect his mindset.

"If you let that get in your head then your play goes down," Taylor said. "And he didn't have to do anything. You just pretty much moved yourself out."

Taylor proved at the end of last season he's capable of a handling a larger role in the offense. After Andre Ellington's season ended in Week 13 with a hip flexor, Taylor ran for 125 yards in the final four games. He averaged 31.3 yards per game as the primary option. Before Ellington got hurt, Taylor averaged 8.3 yards per game.

Those four games built up Taylor's confidence heading into the offseason.

"The more touches you get the more confidence you get being out there on the field," Taylor said. "So, it's definitely a confidence booster just getting on the field, just getting out there and making the most of the opportunities given to me."

Taylor tried not to think about his run at the end of last season when this year's training camp began. He knew he wouldn't make the team based on those laurels. And he wanted to prove himself again.

This year, however, he would do it as a stronger running back.

When Taylor reported for camp, he was about 15 pounds stronger than he was last season. The coaching staff wanted Taylor to weigh between 210 and 215 a year ago, but it was a struggle for him to lose the weight. He had to learn to limit his portions during meals.

"I was pretty light," he said. "I haven't been that light since the beginning of the first year of college."

At Stanford, Taylor played between 217 and 220. In the NFL, he's used to playing at 225, his current weight. It didn't take much effort for the 24-year-old to gain back the weight.

"I'm eating back to what I used to eat," he said. "Back to normal."

Last season, Taylor's normal was as a pass protector.

He played 184 offensive snaps and carried the football on 34.2 percent of those plays and was a receiving target on 8.2 percent of them. With the depth Arizona added to the backfield this year with David Johnson and Chris Johnson, Taylor's numbers will likely go down.

Taylor would like to make more plays but being steady is what will help him secure a spot on the Cardinals' 53-man roster next month.

"I want to be consistent," Taylor said. "I don't want to be up and down. Try to stay consistent, not having any mental errors, try to eliminate those, have as few as possible.

"I go into every season like it's my last. You got to compete. You can never get comfortable."