News, Analysis & UpdatesSeptember 1, 2010

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When the Cards fall, who has the Ace?


With Kurt Warner retiring after 12 years in the NFL, and confirming it when asked if he had any regrets by saying, “Not at all,” one question comes to the mind of Cardinal fans: who will be the quarterback? This question brings up two names, Derek Anderson and Matt Leinart; unfortunately, neither brings Cardinal fans back to the certain security once intertwined with Warner’s name. With large hopes of Leinart finally having his breakout season, or Anderson falling back into his 2007 groove, the Arizona optimists may not see security just yet, but depth in the future. In retrospect, I am not so optimistic. I see an unproven Leinart and a shadow of what was Derek Anderson much more realistically than that of the Arizona hopeful. So who will come out on top in this battle?

Through the preseason thus far, Anderson has taken the majority of snaps, over 40 to Leinart’s 13. This decision by Coach Wisenhunt isn’t much of a surprise when you look at Leinart from a statistical and leadership viewpoint.  After little success against Houston, he fell even further playing a shaky Tennessee Titans defense.  In the Cardinals second preseason game against the Titans (a 24-10 loss), Leinart did not manage to get a first down in the three series he played. Believe it or not, Leinart went three-and-out on all three series. The Heisman Trophy winner was 4-for-6 for 28 yards then and is 10-for-13 for 77 yards in Arizona’s first two preseason games. For those hoping for Warner’s arm strength, Leinart’s longest pass so far has been a mere 16 yard lob.

So with dreams of a productive Leinart beginning to look similar to the nightmares associated with JaMarcus Russell, the Cardinals are giving the start to Anderson. “I think I’ve made big strides since the spring,” said Anderson, who’s completed 24 of 41 passes for 193 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, told the Hanford Sentinel.  With results like these, it makes many, along with myself, wonder if we are going to see the Anderson we saw in 2007. It has been a long time since Anderson’s big season that featured 29 touchdowns. Even with these above average results he has put forward for the Cards this preseason, Anderson’s deal with the football devil has expired, and what is left is a quarterback with a powerful arm, but accuracy that would make a blind Brett Favre look good.

Maybe the QB madness in Arizona is all a part of coach Ken Wisenhunt’s test — could Wisenhunt just simply be yanking Leinart’s chain and looking for a reaction? Whether Wisenhunt is or he isn’t, at this point it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Leinart’s poor performance this preseason and in his NFL career has given coach Wisenhunt all the reason in the world to try to ‘activate’ his comatose quarterback. It’s shocking that the Cardinals quarterback spot, which has been considered a fantasy gold mine for the past several years, has fallen to such a low depth. As ESPN said, “It seems likely that Leinart will have one of the league’s shortest leashes come September, and he’s been mostly dreadful in his four NFL seasons.” With a rough preseason, I still believe after all of this mess you will see Matt Leinart starting the first game.  Wisenhunt’s confidence is very shaky in the, I hesitate to say, oncoming veteran, but I think Leinart will once again have the spot to lose. With a weapon by the name of Larry Fitzgerald at his disposal and NFL-starter potential, I don’t think he will lose his starting role.

I guess the most important question is whether or not Leinart is a good fantasy football pickup or not. His accuracy is obviously his biggest problem but his preseason stats, few as he has had, show significant improvement in this area. If Leinart cures this problem he could nestle in between Fitzgerald and Breaston for a very productive season. Is Leinart QB1 quality, without proof of a starting position and substantial evidence that he will keep it all year? I would say no chance. My insecurities with him lead me only to consider him as a backup, but obviously one with a lot of potential. Though Leinart’s floor may be flood level, his ceiling could leave him looking at the pearly gates. This former Heisman Winner once showed what a college quarterback should look like. He will breakout from the trash that is his NFL career, even if there’s a chance he may not have a “breakout” year. Even though he has several strong receivers to throw to and huge possible upside, under no circumstance would I count on Leinart as my starting QB on my fantasy team, but with a late pick in a deep draft he could be a very productive pickup.

Ben Hendrix is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Ben in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of B3N1ZJAM1N.
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