Matt Leinart (Getty)
Last season, Matt Leinart lost the starting quarterback job to Kurt Warner. This year, he's being challenged for the No. 2 job by journeyman Brian St. Pierre. So it's natural for many people to assume that Leinart, the 10th overall pick in 2006 draft, is a bust. But Leinart doesn't appear in danger of losing his No. 2 job, at least when judged by his first preseason appearance.
Matt Leinart out-played St. Pierre and seemed to improve as the game progressed.
Leinart's mantra this training camp has been to have fun and don't worry about things out of his control. He certainly appears more relaxed than last year, when the quarterback competition was followed daily.
"It was just good to be out there again," said Leinart, who played in only four games last year. "It was fun and I was just having a good time. I think it's because I'm so comfortable with the offense that I'm able to relax out there. I know where to go with the ball."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt created the competition for the backup job when he promised St. Pierre a shot at it in the offseason.
St. Pierre had an offer from Kansas City and wanted to stay in Arizona. But he wanted assurances he would be given the chance to move up to No. 2.
Whisenhunt promised that. And in doing so, he keeps pressure on Leinart. Whisenhunt has always thought that Leinart plays better when someone is pushing him.
"I was pleased with the way Matt played," Whisenhunt said after the preseason game. "He handled himself very well. He made a couple of touch throws where he threw them over defenders to our guys."
Leinart said he was under so much pressure last year that he didn't enjoy the sport as much as he should have.
"I've just learned so much stuff this past year, that I can only control what I can control," he said. "I went into this year thinking that I know my chance is right around the corner and I'm going to prepare myself."
Whisenhunt is not close to declaring a winner in the competition between Leinart and St. Pierre. He declined to compare their performances against Pittsburgh, because the circumstances were different.
In the second preseason game, St. Pierre will replace Warner, with Leinart coming in after that.
St. Pierre was disappointed in his first preseason game, but he's confident that won't be his only chance to prove himself.
"Obviously, you hope things would have worked out better," St. Pierre said. "It was just one of those nights. Not a lot went right."
Battle of the week: There are five tight ends on the roster, and they are tightly bunched on the depth chart. Stephen Spach and Ben Patrick played with the first unit in the first preseason game, with Leonard Pope and Dominique Byrd backing them up. Spach is coming off ACL surgery and Patrick is suspended for the first four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs. Veteran Anthony Becht hasn't practiced much because of a hamstring injury, but he's the best blocker of the bunch. It's going to take all of preseason to sort out the position.
Player of the week: Jerheme Urban has solidified his role as the team's No. 4 receiver with an excellent camp. Urban has probably had the best camp of any player. He played a big role in the team's success last year, and in this training camp, he's shown he can catch in traffic. That was a weakness in previous years.
--There's a new element at work at the tight end position for the Cardinals: competition.
The club suffered several injuries at the position last year, so whichever player was healthy, that's who played. There wasn't much choice.
This year, however, the club has five tight ends on the roster, and they are tightly bunched on the depth chart.
"You know, training camp is long for a reason," tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens said, "and training camp itself will help us sort through who we need."
It will be a tough decision, for various reasons. Ben Patrick is probably the best all-around tight end, but he is suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Stephen Spach is coming off ACL surgery in February, but has made a remarkable recovery. Leonard Pope has the experience, but he struggles with his blocking and the nuances of the offense.
Veteran Anthony Becht is the best blocker of the five, but he's missed most of camp with a strained hamstring. Dominique Byrd, who spent last year out of football, has proven he can catch but he needs to improve his blocking.
"It's great we have competition, and it's making those guys perform at a high level," coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Becht is expected to return to practice soon and perhaps play in the second preseason game. A 10-year veteran, he was signed for his blocking skills and thinks he still has time to prove he fits on the roster.
"We have a lot of guys who do a lot of things well," Becht said. "There is going to be competition every year in camp, whether you're a starter coming back or not. I treat every year as if I'm not the starter."
CAMP CALENDAR: Camp breaks on Aug. 20. The team has one night practice remaining, on Aug. 18.