Tempe, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians named Phillip Sims the starting quarterback Thursday against the Denver Broncos and said he will play the first two quarters before Logan Thomas leads the offense in the second half.
If all goes according to plan, this will be the last anyone sees of either passer.
Yet, as it stands, it will likely be the last appearance in a Cardinals uniform for at least one of them as they compete for the third-string quarterback job.
Sims is the undrafted rookie free agent from Winston-Salem State who joined the Cardinals on a tryout basis and has continued to impress. Thomas, a 2014 fourth-round pick out of Virginia Tech, has shown flashes of brilliance but has struggled with consistency.
It’s very possible that whoever plays better Thursday will earn the job, while the other will be out of one.
Understanding the system will play a big role for whoever becomes the No. 3 QB.
“It’s not the ‘wow’ plays, it’s the consistent level of execution,” Arians said of what he will be looking for. “Where your eyes are, not missing reads, being on the right side of the field — not just throwing up a Hail Mary and everybody saying ‘oh, what a great throw for a touchdown’ when he’s not supposed to be looking at that guy. So that kind of stuff.
“Everything’s evaluated that he does, from the huddle, pre-snap, post-snap, and evaluate him in that area.”
So far this preseason, Sims has completed 14-of-29 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, while Thomas has connected on 12-of-24 passes for 172 yards with one interception. If one of the two has the edge going into Thursday, Arians hasn’t said.
Each will enter the game with plenty on the line, even if neither is stressing out over it.
“Just another game, in my personal opinion,” Sims said. “If you get caught up in all the hype and the situation and you let it overcome you, that’s when you start going out there and playing out of yourself. Just go do what you’ve done the whole preseason, the whole offseason, and try to get you a job. That’s all you can do.”
“Just got to go play,” Thomas said. “Do the best I can, like I have been. Whatever happens, happens.”
Both the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Sims and the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Thomas have the look of good project quarterbacks, players a team would like to have on the roster to develop and possibly develop into a viable starter a couple years down the road. No matter who wins the job, it would not be expected that he plays a significant role this season.
Of course, with the way injuries hit the position last year, everyone knows things could change.
Then again, Arians has also talked about the possibility of the team keeping just two quarterbacks on the roster, meaning neither Sims nor Thomas would make the cut. That seems less likely, though a few months ago the idea that Sims could legitimately challenge a former draft pick in Thomas seemed rather remote, too.
“I didn’t really have much time to think about it, honestly,” Sims said of his journey to this point, where he went from a tryout to the starter in the final preseason game. “I’m happy, but this isn’t what you want it to end at. You want to keep going, you want to make the regular season roster, you want to play in NFL games in the regular season. Preseason is good and fine, but I don’t think anybody’s willing to come and play in the preseason and then hang it up, so hopefully this won’t be the last game.”
If nothing else, Sims’ emergence has led to an improved Thomas.
“It’s definitely made me keep up with my game every day,” Thomas said. “I’m proud of him and he’s been playing very well. Hasn’t done a whole lot wrong, so he’s kept the pressure on.”
The danger, Thomas said, is letting the pressure of the situation get to him. Like Sims, he’s trying to tune it all out.
“I can only control what I can control, and prepare like I normally prepare and go play my game,” he said.
Both Sims and Thomas seem up for the challenge, and Arians is pleased with how each has responded this week knowing what’s at stake.
“They’ve prepared well for this ball game,” he said. “They both played extremely well last week. It was a nice step forward for them, as far as their consistency level in all areas, the whole ball game. Yeah, if they want to get on the roster, that’s the thing that’s going to get them there.”