NFC West: Matt Haselbeck

Healthy perspective on Matt Leinart

August, 24, 2010
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.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Steve from Bellingham, Wash., writes: I read something in your column that frightened me. You suggested that the Seahawks are going to let their best RB go and keep the grossly overpaid, unproductive ones. Please say it ain't so. Julius Jones produced very little in games and game situations that mattered, just like in Dallas. TJ Duckett made several million dollars to touch the ball twice a game. Please, please tell me that the Seahawks have learned from their mistakes and will move to improve, not mediocritize, the running game.

Mike Sando: Maurice Morris is eligible for free agency. The Seahawks moved to sign Jones and Duckett even before they released Shaun Alexander. They even brought in Duckett for a visit a year earlier, when they had no spot for him. General manager Tim Ruskell was clearly angling to change up the running game.

Morris lost his most important supporter when Mike Holmgren left the team. Holmgren was GM when the Seahawks drafted Morris. Holmgren played Morris extensively down the stretch. Holmgren did not immediately find a role for Duckett. With Holmgren gone, the Seahawks appear less likely to re-sign Morris.

We also must consider the financial picture at running back.

Duckett's contract carries $800,000 in salary proration for each of the next four seasons after the Seahawks exercised an option to treat a guaranteed roster bonus as a signing bonus (a common tactic that allows teams to avoid initial salary cap consequences). Duckett has a $2.5 million salary in 2009. He will very likely be on the team.

The Seahawks made a similar move with Jones in November. His contract now carries more than $1 million in proration for each of the next three seasons. His base salary in 2009 is nearly $2 million. He will very likely be on the team.

It's tough to see Morris fitting into that financial landscape, particularly if Seattle is open to selecting a running back with the fourth overall choice in the draft.

That's how I see it, based on the evidence.

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