TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has put his team's struggling offense into the hands of undrafted rookie quarterback Max Hall.
Whisenhunt announced after Wednesday's practice that the former BYU standout would make his first NFL start Sunday when the Cardinals are home against the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, replacing the erratic Derek Anderson.
Hall is Arizona's third starting quarterback since training camp opened.
Anderson replaced Matt Leinart in the third preseason game. That led to Leinart's release and left Hall as Anderson's backup.
The strong-armed Anderson, signed by Arizona as a free agent after he was released by Cleveland, was benched after throwing two first-half interceptions in last Sunday's 41-10 loss at San Diego. Hall came on to complete 8 of 14 passes for 82 yards without an interception but was sacked six times.
"I think Max certainly feels he's ready for it," Whisenhunt said. "I mean, he's a confident young man. He's been that way since he's been here. He's made progress. He believes in himself and carries himself with that confidence. I know that he wanted to play. I don't think that's ever been a question."
The Cardinals are tied for the NFC West lead at 2-2 but have been outscored 82-17 in their two losses.
"Hopefully we'll make some more plays, be a little more efficient offensively," Whisenhunt said. "I think that one of the areas we need to improve in is just making the plays that are there. That's what we've missed on."
Hall said he's not looking at this as a one-week audition for the job.
"I'm just going forward like it's mine," he said. "That's the mindset that you have to have. They're putting everything into me. The game plan and everything is going toward my strengths so I'm moving forward like it's mine."
The 6-foot-1 Hall is a hometown favorite, having grown up in nearby Mesa. He initially enrolled at Arizona State but never played for the Sun Devils. After two years on a Mormon mission, he started all 39 games in his three seasons with BYU. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 11,365 yards and 82 touchdowns while with the Cougars. In the process, he broke Ty Detmer's school record for victories as a quarterback with 32.
"We do feel good about his ability to get in there and run our offense and that's because of the way he's handled himself since the day he got here," Whisenhunt said. "That's a little bit unusual for rookies, to have that confidence, to have that ability to handle the huddle, make some plays. Once again, it doesn't really mean anything until you see it on game day and we're certainly expecting to have some success with that."
Hall was not among the 15 quarterbacks chosen in the draft, but quickly found a home with the Cardinals.
"You don't get drafted, you wonder what's going to happen," he said. "I was excited to be part of this organization. Coach Whisenhunt was always good and fair with me in everything that we did. We have a good relationship. It's an exciting thing for me to have the opportunity that's ahead of me to start for this team. I'm just going to give it my best."
Anderson was dogged by the same accuracy issues that plagued him with the Browns. He has completed 52 percent of his passes (58 for 112) with three touchdowns and five interceptions. Anderson's quarterback rating of 59.5 ranks 30th in the NFL and his 644 yards passing rank 23rd.
Whisenhunt said Anderson labored to escape the formidable shadow left by Kurt Warner.
"I think what happened with Derek is he was pressing. He was trying to be perfect," Whisenhunt said. "A lot of that is because of the standard that's been set at that position around here, and I understand that. I think that's a tough way to try to play that position. That was part of the reasoning as to why we made this switch."
Anderson wasn't in the locker room after practice but Whisenhunt said the quarterback handled the demotion "like a professional and with a lot of class."
While the players praised Hall's enthusiasm and ability to lead the team, running back Tim Hightower offered a reality check.
"He has his hands full. He's got a plate full in front of him, I'm not going to lie," Hightower said. "They kind of threw him in there but it comes back to us making his transition a lot easier. We've got to establish the running game. We've got to be physical. We've got to make plays and we've got to take the pressure off him."