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Next? Cardinals to start rookie Thomas at QB

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Rookie Logan Thomas will start at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, but coach Bruce Arians insists this is not a reflection on how Ryan Lindley played against the Seattle Seahawks.

But of course it is a direct reflection on Lindley or he would be starting again. Arians was just trying to be tactful.

Lindley completed only 18 of 44 passes for 216 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. If he had played well, and the Cardinals had not lost 35-6, Lindley would be starting on the road against the 49ers.

Instead, it will be Thomas. He will be the fourth quarterback the Cardinals have started this season.

“It would be a quick hook if it isn’t going in a way that I want it to go,” Arians said on Monday, “because I do trust Ryan. I think he proved that the stadium wasn’t too big for him. He just missed some throws.”

The Cardinals are hoping that Drew Stanton is healthy enough to return for the first round of the playoffs. Most likely, the Cardinals will be the fifth seed and on the road at either Carolina or Atlanta.

Stanton suffered a sprained knee on Dec. 11 in St. Louis. He practiced on a limited basis on Thursday last week but experienced swelling the next day. Unless he makes dramatic improvement, Stanton will sit out a second consecutive game.

“There’s no way I’ll play him this week unless we have to,” Arians said.

A rookie, Thomas is a project. He is a great athlete with a tremendous arm. But he’s erratic. His only extended playing time this year came in week three in Denver, when Stanton left with a concussion. Thomas’ only completion in eight attempts was an 81-yard touchdown pass to running back Andre Ellington.

It’s telling that on Sunday night, Arians never came close to playing Thomas, even though Lindley was struggling. Thomas had a limited package in the game plan and threw one pass against the Seahawks. It was incomplete.

“I need to find out some things about him before we get any further into this season,” Arians said of Thomas. “I want to see him with a full week of practice, getting the reps and then see how he does.”

Meanwhile, general manager Steve Keim didn’t deny a profootballtalk.com report that the team would not release receiver Larry Fitzgerald this off-season. On his weekly radio appearance on Monday morning, Keim said the Cardinals have “baked in” Fitzgerald’s 2015 salary cap figure of $23.6 million into their budget

“We’ve said all along it’s our intent to have Larry Fitzgerald retire a Cardinal,” Keim said. “I don’t want to get into it too deep. Financially, we have Larry’s number already baked into our numbers.”

That $23.6 million would be about 17 percent of the projected $141 million salary cap. That high of a number would limit what the Cardinals could do in free agency and in re-signing key players.

A decision will have to be made by March, when Fitzgerald is due an $8 million bonus if he’s on the roster.

REPORT CARD VS. SEAHAWKS

–PASSING OFFENSE: F — Ryan Lindley completed 40 percent of his passes for 216 yards. He continually missed open receivers, and he was sacked four times. A horrible performance.

–RUSHING OFFENSE F — The Cardinals rushed 15 times for 29 yards, yet coach Bruce Arians said afterward that he should have called more running plays. That might have eaten up some clock and kept the game closer, longer.

–PASS DEFENSE: D — Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson passed for 339 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder to tight end Luke Willson. The Cardinals sacked Wilson just once.

–RUSH DEFENSE: F — Wilson had runs of 55 and 22 yards, and running back Marshawn Lynch scored on a 79-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals tackling was poor. Worse, a banged up Seattle offensive line won the day over the defensive line.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Chandler Catanzaro made both field goals. Those were about the only positive plays. Ted Ginn, Jr., had a 9-yard kick return. The Cardinals needed big plays by these units and didn’t get them.

–COACHING: C — It’s hard to give anyone a mediocre grade for an awful performance, but so much of the Cardinals’ problems had to do with starting a third-team quarterback. Arians probably should have called more runs and more safe passes, such as rollouts and screens. On defense, the Cardinals played decently until the fourth quarter. Then, they collapsed.


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