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Brian Hoyer to start for Arizona Cardinals Sunday against San Francisco 49ers

TEMPE — Quarterback Brian Hoyer was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Cardinals on December 10, 2012.

On December 29 he will make his first career start, for the Cardinals against the San Francisco 49ers.

“He’s been in the league, he’s a veteran guy, he did a nice job in last week’s game and this is an opportunity to see what he can do with a week of practice and where he can go from there,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said when announcing the decision Wednesday.

Hoyer, 27, has played in 14 NFL games during the course of his career, completing just over 61 percent of his passes for 391 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He completed 11-of-19 passes for 105 yards and a pick in a losing effort last Sunday in relief of Ryan Lindley.

“He has a good knowledge of the game, good timing on his throws, I think he did a good job in the game last week making some accurate throws, some quick throws,” Whisenhunt said, noting the interception was not Hoyer’s best pass. “I know he’s going against a tough defense, it will be a tough situation, but it’s a great time to evaluate him and see where he is.”

Where Hoyer will be is really anyone’s guess. He’ll have been with the team less than three weeks before leading them against the first place 49ers, and as Whisenhunt said, he’ll be facing a really good defense.

“What a good test and opportunity to go and play against those guys up at their place,” Hoyer said.

The former Michigan State quarterback said his job all along was to practice as if he might get a chance to play at some point, and even admitted he had an inkling he might see the field after being picked up late in the season.

Still, for a player who has been in the league as long as he has, getting that first start is something he’s definitely excited — and ready — for.

“This is an opportunity I waited a long time for,” Hoyer said, adding he didn’t really expect it to come with the Cardinals. “When you’re given opportunities like this you’ve just got to try to go out, prepare as best you can and make the most of them.”

In a way it is an audition for the quarterback, though Whisenhunt said that’s not the reason he is getting the nod Sunday. When asked, the coach said Hoyer presented the perfect mix of giving the team its best chance to win while giving the coaches a chance to evaluate a new option at the most important — and struggling — position on the team.

“I wouldn’t put him in there just to play him and see what he is; this isn’t a tryout,” Whisenhunt said. “I think he merited that based on the way he played in the game last weekend and it is an opportunity to see how he handles that with a week of practice, there’s no question about that.

“But I also think from what we saw last week he did some nice things in the game and see if he can build off of that.”

If he does, Hoyer will do what few quarterbacks have done for the Cardinals since Kurt Warner retired in 2010. Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Ryan Lindley have all been given a shot, and each one has failed in some regard. The team’s inability to get quality play out of the position has led to three straight seasons without a spot in the postseason.

So if Hoyer is a last-ditch attempt to try and find something positive at that position, so be it. Whisenhunt said Hoyer appears calm in the pocket with an ability to see the field and make accurate throws, so he wants to see how the former Patriot and Steeler fares as the unquestioned starter for a week.

“It’s no secret we haven’t gotten the production out of that position that we needed,” the coach said, noting it seems like more than four players this season given how players have been in and out of the lineup. “We’ve got to get consistency at that position and this is an opportunity to see how Brian measures up.”