GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Don’t start a debate with Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians about whether or not the NFL should eliminate preseason games.
He’ll just refer to quarterback Logan Thomas' performance in the Cardinals’ 32-0 win over the Houston Texans on Saturday as Exhibit A as to why rookies need the exhibition games. If Thomas didn’t have Saturday evening to go 11-for-12 for 113 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut, Arians would still be wincing in practice every time Thomas overthrew a receiver or fired a rocket on a 6-yard route.
Instead, Thomas was nearly flawless, going through his progressions and finding the right mix of speed and finesse on his passes.
“This is the beauty of the preseason,” Arians said. “People that want to get rid of preseason games don’t have young quarterbacks. If they don’t get preseason games, they have no chance.”
Because of the first and second teams’ offensive efficiency in the first half, Arians handed Thomas the ball for the entire second half. He had 42 snaps to get his legs under him, and they gave the fourth-round pick enough time to settle his nerves and find a rhythm.
He completed his first three passes before missing on a throw to Walt Powell. Then Thomas completed his next eight.
“It just slowed down for me,” Thomas said. “It felt good. Everybody was in their right spots and I was making good reads.”
On his touchdown pass, Thomas previewed what life would be like with him behind center. On the 14th play of the drive, with Arizona already ahead 23-0 and the Cardinals facing a third-and-4 from the 12-yard line, the pocket collapsed, forcing Thomas to step up and make a decision. Either he’d be sacked, take off running or throw the ball away. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Thomas isn’t easy to get down, especially when he’s fighting linebackers his size. With option one off the board, Thomas went through his progressions, but none of his options were open at first so he cupped the football and began to run. Just before he crossed the line of scrimmage, which would’ve given the announced attendance of 60,540 a glimpse of the foot skills that added value to Thomas’ draft stock, he fired a bullet to Dan Buckner in the back of the end zone for at touchdown.
This wasn’t the same Thomas that Arians has been watching since May.
“He had a nice, calm demeanor,” Arians said. “We kept with things he likes and knows. He threw some balls in there that made me hold my breath, but the guys caught them.
“He was very, very good.”
Thomas’ pre-draft evaluations focused on his accuracy issues, which marred his career at Virginia Tech. It’s been a topic of discussion every time Thomas’ name comes up, but throwing one incompletion in his NFL debut, regardless of it being a preseason game, showed that Thomas is ready to start competing for a job on this level.
But Saturday wasn’t even his best passing day of camp. He was 16-for-16 one other time.
Like any other outing, Thomas said he wasn’t perfect. There were a few passes he wanted back. Thomas said his goals against Houston were narrowed to three things: go through his progressions, make the right reads and make the right passes. In the immediate aftermath of his impressive introduction, he believed he accomplished all three, but he won’t know for sure until film is turned on this week.
That’s what these preseason games are for -- for rookies to make mistakes -- but they’re also designed for rookies to impress. It’s one thing to be a good practice player. It’s another to show up on game day. Arians never expected Thomas to play as well as he did in a game, considering his struggles in training camp.
But some players just feel at home under the lights.
“I felt very comfortable,” Thomas said. “Don’t get me wrong, I messed up my fair share of stuff, but I felt good, felt relaxed and a lot more relaxed than I thought I’d be going into the game.”