Five things to keep a close eye on as the Arizona Cardinals take the field for their fourth and final 2014 preseason game Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers.
Watch all the action beginning at 6:30 p.m. on ABC15:
1. The Logan Thomas show
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said rookie third-string quarterback Logan Thomas will play the entire game on Thursday night. Thomas completed 11 of 12 passes in the Cards’ preseason-opening win against the Houston Texans, but was just 2 of 6 in their loss to the Bengals on Saturday.
With the release of 2013 third-string QB Ryan Lindley on Monday, Thomas has all but secured a roster spot heading into the regular season. But Thursday night may give us a clue as to which Thomas we can expect to see if and when he takes the field again at some point in 2014.
2. Running for a roster spot
The Cardinals’ top running back trio of Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer is not expected to see much, if any, playing time on Thursday. That leaves the door open for regular-season roster hopefuls such as RBs Zach Bauman and Jalen Parmele to present one last case to the Cards’ coaching staff.
Through three preseason games, Bauman, a Chandler native and Northern Arizona alum, is averaging 3.2 yards per carry, while Parmele, a 2008 sixth-round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins, is averaging just 2.1 ypc. Contrasted with Ellington’s NFL-leading 5.5 ypc last season, both Bauman and Parmele will need to make a compelling case in San Diego in order to stick around.
3. Any more room for wideouts?
Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn, John Brown and Jaron Brown are all locks to make the Cards’ 53-man roster. If – and it’s a big if – the Cardinals decide to retain a sixth WR, it will come down to second-year pros Brittan Golden and Dan Buckner, along with rookie Walt Powell.
Golden may have an edge, as he leads the team with 14 receptions thus far in regular-season play. Regardless, all three men should see significant snaps on Thursday.
4. Mathieu’s return?
Second-year safety Tyrann Mathieu was having an excellent rookie campaign until his season was derailed when he tore his ACL and LCL in a December matchup with the St. Louis Rams. But Mathieu may be ready to retake the field, and retake it earlier than many expected, as there is a possibility that the Honey Badger will see action on Thursday against the Chargers.
How important is it for Mathieu to play? Very, according to Arians, who said Mathieu won’t play in the team’s regular-season opener on Monday, Sept. 8 if he doesn’t play on Thursday.
5. Minter, Cooper and Ta’amu
Along with Mathieu, three other Cardinals who sustained injuries during preseason play and training camp – linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral), guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu (knee) – all look to be game-time decisions for Thursday.
Arians said the rule he’s applied to Mathieu also applies to those three men: take the field on Thursday, or don’t expect to take the field in Week 1 of the regular season. Needless to say, Cards fans should hope all three see at least a few snaps in San Diego.