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Offseason full of more reps lies ahead for improving Logan Thomas

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The plan was never to let Logan Thomas taste the NFL last year.

His palette for the pro game was still developing, as were his skills. The plan was to let the fourth-round pick crawl before he could walk and walk before he could run the Arizona Cardinals' offense. He had two veteran quarterbacks to teach him the ways, not just of the team's locker room, but of coach Bruce Arians' offense and of life in the NFL.

The Cardinals were content letting patience guide their handling of Thomas.

"We drafted him for two years from now," Arians said.

But as Arizona learned quickly last season, plans can get thrown out in a hurry in the NFL. And the Cardinals need Thomas to be ready in case he's needed on short notice.

With his rookie season a memory at this point, Thomas is preparing to enter his second offseason with the Cardinals still third on the depth chart. Even though Arizona will continue to use a two-field practice system, Thomas may find himself working with the first team depending on the health of the other two quarterbacks: It's highly unlikely starter Carson Palmer will see the field until possibly June and backup Drew Stanton should be close to 100 percent, Arians said. Thomas will get about 90 percent of the second-field reps, Arians said.

Arians believes that with this offseason, with first- and second-field reps, Thomas could start catching up on the gains he didn't make last season while mostly watching from the bench.

"He can make a ton just getting reps," Arians said.

"He's going to get a ton of work and those reps are invaluable. Just decision-making, how fast you're getting it out of your hands, where you're going with it, where you're going when one and two are still covered. Are you still scrambling around or are you going to find our outlets? That growth process comes strictly from reps and in training camp, he'll get a ton."

With how unpredictable football is, Thomas may spend all 16 games inactive or dressed with a clipboard in his hand.

Or Thomas could relive last season, but the hope being that he's better prepared.

In Week 5, already down Palmer, Arians watched Stanton leave the field at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver early in the third quarter. All those hours spent devising a strategy to bring Thomas along at a slow but steady pace weren't wasted, just magnified when Arians had to turn to Thomas, the Cardinals' lone healthy quarterback that day.

It's a cliché, but it held true in Denver: Thomas was baptized, not by fire however, but by an NFL defense. He went 1-for-8 in the final 25 minutes. His lone completion went for a touchdown, more because of Andre Ellington's catch-and-run, than Thomas bombing a pass deep.

The 23-year-old saw the field for one more play the rest of the season, and that was by design. Arians faced a crucial decision heading into the NFC wild-card game at Carolina without Palmer or Stanton: Start the young but ineffective Ryan Lindley or throw care or sense to the wind and give Thomas his first start in the postseason. A week before, Arians initially sided with his instinct and announced Thomas would start but recanted a couple days later and gave Lindley the ball.

But it wasn't a lack of trust that caused Arians to change his mind on Thomas. Arians was protecting Thomas' future.

"I was not going to let him fail because once you fail, those scars go away," Arians said. "It's very hard to get guys back in the locker room if you cost them the playoffs. I just wasn't going to put him in that situation.

"Right or wrong, it was my decision."