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Leinart era set to begin in Arizona
10/3/2006 3:51:30 PM
(Sports Network) - The Arizona Cardinals sure did end their quarterback controversy quickly, didn't they?
A week ago, it was rumored and then reported that the Cardinals would bench then-starter Kurt Warner and go with their first-round pick, Matt Leinart. Instead, head coach Dennis Green named Warner the starter, saying that he expected Warner to lead the team into the playoffs.
Those plans swiftly faded in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 32-10 defeat, as Leinart was inserted into the lineup early in frame for his NFL debut. The move came after Warner was sacked and fumbled the ball away, his second fumble of the game and 10th of the season.
So what did Leinart do on his first series, which followed a Jerious Norwood 78-yard touchdown run that made it 29-10? First, he hit Larry Fitzgerald for a five-yard gain, but then was hit by Grady Jackson and fumbled on the next play.
Overall, Leinart completed 5-of-8 passes for 49 yards with an interception. Warner hit on 11-of-20 attempts for 128 yards with a pick.
"Obviously you do not want to go in under those circumstances," Leinart said. "To get my first experience I felt all right. I wanted to go in there and make plays and keep the guys alive. It was a tough game to try and come back from, but I at least wanted to get in there and not let the team quit."
Saying he pulled Warner because he made too many mistakes, Green announced after the loss that Leinart will start against Kansas City this Sunday. Given how quickly Green made the decision, it has to be assumed he was ready to go with Leinart last week before having a change of heart.
"That is not an emotional decision," Green said in announcing the QB switch. "I had a lot of time to think about it while we were losing very badly, and Matt is going to start. I think that it is our best chance against Kansas City, a team that we play next week. But I think that our best chance is to make sure that we are in a situation that we can do a little better."
The good news for Leinart is that instead of making his first NFL start on the road in Atlanta, he will instead be in front of his home crowd in Arizona. In fact, the Cardinals' next two games will be at home (Kansas City and the defensively-tough Bears) before two winnable games on the road (Oakland and Green Bay).
"He is a guy who had an incredible career in college," Green said of Leinart. "I think he has worked hard to try to learn and understand the pro game and I think he is ready to play."
Outside of facing a tough, punishing Chicago defense, Leinart's transition should be smooth, and he will have a proven veteran in Warner mentoring him.
"I will do whatever I can to help Matt," Warner said. "We have to figure out a way to get this thing going. We have to get behind Matt and support him and hopefully he can turn the tides. We definitely need to do something right now."
And while Warner said he was frustrated and disappointed with the situation, he thinks Leinart can step in and make the big plays the club needs.
"The bottom is that this is a team effort," Warner added. "It takes eleven guys on each snap to get this thing done. Not just one guy. Hopefully Matt can spark something and do some of his magic like he had before (in college) and turn this thing around."
FALCONS GONE WILD
While the Arizona defense held a run-oriented Michael Vick to just 153 yards passing, the Falcon ground game accumulated 262 yards rushing. That total was helped by Norwood's big run, as Warrick Dunn's understudy finished with 106 yards total on six carries.
Dunn, meanwhile, added 55 yards rushing, while Vick scampered for 101.
"We know Michael is the kind of guy who can beat you with his legs," Cardinals cornerback Eric Green said. "He got a couple of runs in there. But for the most part, we kept him contained because guys were flying to the ball. The D- line and our linebackers did a great job of containing him. But he's not the only guy they've got on that team. They showed that today."
Despite the high total, Dennis Green wasn't too discouraged with his defense's effort.
"Defensively, we did a few things well," Green said. "Not a lot. They still ran for way too much yardage but we did keep them out of the end zone."
All game, the defense bent, but didn't break. Morten Anderson's first two field goals -- he converted five in all -- came as the result of good field position, and Vick's lone pick resulted in Adrian Wilson's franchise-record 99-yard interception return, which he took to the end zone.
Larry Wilson's 96-yard return against Cleveland on December 19, 1965 was the previous record.
"It's in the record books, man," said Wilson. "But it doesn't mean too much because we lost the game. Individually, accomplishments are diminished."
Obviously, Warner tops the Cardinals list of players going through a rough stretch.
The former MVP and Super Bowl champion earned Player of the Week honors after the club's season-opening win against San Francisco, but has been inconsistent since.
"I expected us to be one of the top offenses in the league all year long," Warner said of his struggles. "We have to figure out what is wrong. We have the capabilities and the pieces, we just have to figure out what it is that we need to do to be as successful as we were last year."
Warner has thrown for 916 yards this season with five touchdown passes, but has been intercepted five times as well and of course, has had trouble holding onto the ball.
Also struggling is free-agent prize Edgerrin James, who has just 272 yards rushing on 88 carries through four games. He has found the end zone just twice so far.
"We have to figure out something," said James. "We have too much talent to even have problems like this, but we'll figure it out. That's what it really boils down to."
The former Colt rushed for just 41 yards against Atlanta, and hauled in five passes for another 31 yards.
"There's only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything. I do, and I demand that my players do."
- Vince Lombardi
Re: Leinart era set to begin in ArizonaThe Arizona Cardinals sure did end their quarterback controversy quickly, didn't they?
Saying he pulled Warner because he made too many mistakes, Green announced after the loss that Leinart will start against Kansas City this Sunday.
IMO Leinart is in for a long, painful first start.
Re: Leinart era set to begin in Arizona
I feel bad for KW although it's deserved. The fumbles are a major issue for KW.
I have a feeling Leinerts going to have the same if not more problems. The Cards O-line is terrible and Green needs to address that.
Re: Leinart era set to begin in Arizona
Leinart is almost assuredly going to have the same problems behind that awful offensive line. Opposing defenses are going to come at him with a vengeance and do everything they can to create confusion and pressure. I don't think he has the arm strength to make things happen down field, and when he's running for his life, he doesn't have the feet to keep many options open. We'll see.
The Cardinals sacrificing the season to try and develop their future works for me.
Re: Leinart era set to begin in Arizona
While this situation seems eerily reminiscent of the 2004 New York Giants, I think Warner is more than happy to get out of there right now. I also think that had the Cardinals been facing a mediocre team as opposed to on the of the better defenses(Atlanta), that Leinart would have started.
And, while it's true that Warner gets stripped a lot, he doesn't actually turn the ball over a lot(on fumbles). In fact, a lot of the plays where he has fumbled, he was being sacked on 3rd down situations. So, while the fumbles can't be excused, they didn't generally cost the Cardinals. A few have but most didn't. The Card's problems are a lot deeper than who's behind center and it's really surprising to me.
They've known for quite some time that the o-line is subpar and I thought they had addressed the situation(at least to some degree) during the offseason. The haven't had any major injuries on the line thus far and have as much continuity as they're going to get at this point. With all of that though, they're still tied for 30th in the league in rushing, averaging a full yard less per game than they did last year when Shipp and Arrington lost their jobs.
So, Green has essentially fired his o-line coach, benched his incumbent RB, benched his 2nd round RB, cut his incumbent, "future Brett Favre", QB, benched his veteran "Qb who will lead us into the playoffs" and made no changes to the o-line.
He's choosing to play Davis out of position(LT rather than LG), start Stepanovich(who's barely practice squad quality), play Oliver Ross out of position(RT instead of RG) and has Lutui, a third round pick from a dominant USC o-line, de-activated half the time.
I thought it was bad being a Rams fan sometimes and truly awful following the Giants in 2004, but watching the Cardinals...I must have run over someone's puppy to have to endure that. Between Martz and Green, I'm ready to fall in love with Linehan.