Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Healthy perspective on Matt Leinart
By Mike Sando
Facebook friend E.J. reached out with a question about Matt Leinart's light workload against the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.
"When Kurt Warner was the starter," he wrote, "I always thought Leinart should play every snap of the preseason (when Warner wasn't in). But to my surprise, they often played Brian St. Pierre and even Tyler Palko. Now that Leinart's time has come, I'm again surprised to see how little Leinart has played."
E.J. pointed to other starters around the league playing longer.
"Could you shed some light on the Cardinals' approach to limiting Leinart's preseason work?" he asked.
Yes. I asked coach Ken Whisenhunt about this issue early in training camp and he surprisingly said there would be no extra effort made to get reps for Leinart. To the contrary, Whisenhunt was reasonably comfortable with what Leinart could do. Getting work for Anderson, who was new to the system, would be a higher priority than carving out extra time for Leinart.
That told me Whisenhunt felt good enough about Leinart to go into the season with Leinart as his starter, even if the offense played the way it played in past preseasons with Kurt Warner under center -- not very well.
Yes, it's more important for Leinart to look good during these preseason games because he's less established than Warner. It's also fair to wonder to what degree Leinart's performances might be affecting Whisenhunt's view of him. My sense early in camp was that Whisenhunt felt better about Leinart than he was letting on -- the last thing he wanted to see was Leinart getting complacent. Whisenhunt has handled other players similarly, so there's nothing out of the ordinary there.
At your request, E.J., I went through gamebooks from the recently completed second week of exhibition games to see how much starting quarterbacks played in general. Special circumstances limited A.J. Feeley, Josh Freeman and Brett Favre to only one series apiece.
The chart ranks preseason Week 2 starting quarterbacks by total plays. The chart also shows total possessions and pass attempts for each quarterback. Leinart could have gotten more plays by converting a first down or two, but I thought Whisenhunt could have given him another series or possibly gone for it on fourth-and-1.