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UNC football: T.J. Logan starts his NFL career

The good news: He led the Arizona Cardinals in rushing yards. The bad news: He had 24 yards. The ugly news: He left the game with an injury.

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NFL: Pro Football Hall of Fame Game-Arizona Cardinals vs Dallas Cowboys Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Hall of Fame game, contested this past Thursday evening between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, was due to be a matchup between two former Tar Heel stars ready to make an impact in the NFL. Ryan Switzer is practically guaranteed to be the Cowboys’ main return option, and T.J. Logan looks to stand out in a crowded Cardinals backfield that includes established names like David Johnson, Chris Johnson, Kerwynn Williams, and Andre Ellington. That’s not to mention that the Cardinals also signed former UNC center Lucas Crowley as an undrafted free agent.

Things change quickly in the NFL, though. A hamstring tweak during practice meant that Switzer didn’t even travel with the team to Canton, Ohio. The Cardinals waived Crowley last week. That meant Logan was the only Carolina rookie to get into the spotlight last night.

That’s fine, honestly. The Cowboys playing it safe with Switzer makes sense; teams participating in the HoF Game are playing in an extra preseason game. They know what they have in Switzer, and they can use those extra four quarters to let him get healthy and see what depth they have behind him. What of Logan, though? Fedora was sometimes criticized for not knowing how best to utilize Logan’s skillset. Will the Cardinals fare any better? Let’s take a look at how they used him Thursday night and what he did.

In their preview for the Hall of Fame Game, Pro Football Focus had this to say about Logan:

The speedster from North Carolina was a combine freak and he also was hard to tackle last season for the Tar Heels. Logan forced a total of 34 missed tackles and registered an elusive rating of 66.9, seventh in the ACC. Logan will look to add depth to the backfield in Arizona as yet another pass-catcher as he registered the sixth highest yards per route run out of the backfield among ACC RBs last year (1.63).

How did these projections align with how the Cardinals used him? Well, first and foremost, he was primarily used as a return man in both the kicking game and punting game. He muffed the opening kickoff harmlessly in the end zone for a touchback, and later in the game caused a very amusing moment when his blockers turned around with their hands out in STOP position telling him not to run it out of the end zone.

At the end of the game, Logan had only taken two kicks back, including one very impressive 43-yard return where he showed his speed, bringing it out from seven yards deep in the end zone all the way to the 35-yard line.

As for punts, Logan didn’t really get much chances to strut his stuff there, either. Most were downed, went out of bounds, fair-caught, or went into the end zone. He only actually returned one, for ten yards. But he perhaps had his most impressive play of the night on a play that didn’t even matter:

A penalty negated that play, but it didn’t negate what happened to that punter.

Logan saw time with the offense for only one drive during the fourth quarter with the Cardinals trailing by 2 and about ten minutes left in the game. Here’s his first play from scrimmage:

This 16-yard sprint between the tackles was the Cardinals’ longest run play of the game, and definitely Logan’s most impressive play that actually counted. Logan ran three more times after that, bringing his total up to 24 yards, which led all Cardinals rushers. He also lined up wide on the last play of the series, where he was targeted for a pass that was well off-target from rookie Trevor Knight.

However, Logan’s bright night ended on a sour note. He hurt his wrist during that drive and was held out the rest of the game. Friday, news broke that the injury likely requires surgery, although this early there’s no telling how long a recovery window will be. At the very least, Logan will miss several more preseason games, an extremely disappointing outcome for a player who got off to such a great start in his first taste of NFL action.

Whenever T.J. Logan returns to full health, the Cardinals will be waiting for him with open arms. Although the team doesn’t lack depth in the backfield, Logan was obviously set to be the lead return man at a position commentators Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels acknowledged the Cardinals need a fresh face in. Here’s wishing him well in his recovery, whatever form it takes.