Arizona Cardinals: Blaine Gabbert, Budda Baker shine in Hall of Fame Game

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 03: Blaine Gabbert (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 03: Blaine Gabbert (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Arizona Cardinals ended up on the losing side of the scoreboard in the 2017 Hall of Fame Game, but Blaine Gabbert and Budda Baker both shined.

The NFL preseason finally got underway last night with the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys representing the league in this year’s Hall of Fame Game. Many of the games greats were on hand with Kurt Warner and Jerry Jones both representing the Cardinals and Cowboys, respectively, as 2017 inductees.

The Hall of Fame Game is centrally focused around, well, the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s not a highly anticipated affair for the casual fan as little-to-no starters ever put on a helmet. That was much of the same this year as only a couple expected starters from both organizations played in the contest that saw the Cowboys coming out on top, 20-18.

Two Cardinals players that took advantage of the extra snaps of a fifth preseason game includes quarterback Blaine Gabbert and rookie safety Budda Baker. Two very different players in two very different stages of their careers.

Gabbert, a long-time journeyman that was signed by Arizona this offseason, looked like a veteran that’s seen a load of success since being drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He spent his first there years with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the last three with the San Francisco 49ers. Now Gabbert, who enters 2017 with a 9-31 record as a starter in the NFL, is competing with the likes of rookie Trevor Knight for a roster spot.

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By the end of the first half, Gabbert completed 11-of-14 passes for 185 yards. The old, overused argument that he “didn’t play anybody” doesn’t go unnoticed. However, for a quarterback in a new system Gabbert looked poised and polished in head coach Bruce Arians’ offense leading two consecutive scoring drives in the first quarter, capping one off a QB sneak for a two-point conversion.

One game isn’t enough to hand Gabbert a roster spot. Drew Stanton is still the favorite to backup Carson Palmer this season. Gabbert, though, could push for second string with more performances like last night.

While Gabbert provided the most firepower on offense, Baker helped lead an impressive night on the defensive side of the ball. The second-rounder out of Washington is already expected to see playing time this season, but he’s pushing for more than just the occasional snap here and there.

On Dallas’ first possession Baker was the first to hit the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage on second down. He then blanketed the Cowboys receiver on third down, forcing the Dallas offense into a three-and-out. Baker, along with fellow rookie Haason Reddick, continued to get better as they played with Baker playing much of the game and Reddick through the first half.

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Arizona hits the field again against the Oakland Raiders on Aug. 12. Stanton will expect to receive some snaps but Gabbert should again get more playing time. Rookies Baker and Reddick will also get quality snaps throughout the game as they continue adjusting to life in the NFL.