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Cardinals rookie QB Skelton gets first NFL start

Arizona rookie quarterback John Skelton will get his first NFL start when the Cardinals play the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt made the announcement after practice Friday. Skelton was considered the probable choice after Derek Anderson was sidelined with a concussion. The only other healthy quarterback is Richard Bartel, who was signed this week.

"I didn't really have a lot of choice," Whisenhunt said.

The coach said he hopes Anderson, who has yet to be cleared for play by doctors, will pass the required test Saturday and be the team's third quarterback.

Arizona has lost seven in a row going into the game Sunday against the Broncos, whose coach Josh McDaniels was fired this week.

Skelton, a fifth-round draft pick out of Fordham, was 3 of 6 for 45 yards and was sacked once in his NFL debut in the fourth quarter last Sunday in a 19-6 loss to St. Louis. His first pass was a 22-yard completion to Steve Breaston on third-and-16.

Whisenhunt said Skelton's "command of the offense was a lot better."

"I think that, coupled with the fact that he handled himself pretty well last week in the game, makes you feel that he's a lot better prepared now than he was earlier," Whisenhunt said. "It doesn't mean that it's going to be great quarterback play, but we're hopeful that he can get in there and handle it well and make some plays for us."

Skelton had been used almost exclusively as the quarterback of the "scout" team in practice, simulating the opponent for the coming week.

"It's one thing to sit back and watch the reps and learn by film study and learn by watching someone," Skelton said, "and it's something else to be in there getting the reps. It definitely benefited. A lot of plays I'm real comfortable with and a lot of plays the first time I ran them was this week."

The 6-foot-6 Skelton grew up in El Paso, Texas, but found his way to the Bronx and Fordham, where he led the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) with 3,708 yards passing in 2009. His uncle, Javier Loya, owns a share of the Houston Texans and played quarterback at Columbia.

The Cardinals considered Skelton a long-term project.

But when Anderson was ineffective, and as it turned out had a concussion, then Max Hall dislocated his left shoulder, the job fell to the third-stringer.

"They'll definitely still be some nerves," Skelton said. "It will probably be tempered a little bit because I did get to play a little bit last week, but at the same time it's still my first start. I'm not a guy that gets real nervous, but I'll probably be real anxious."