Matt Leinart (Getty)
Although Matt Leinart has fallen out of favor with most of the Cardinal faithful, the former Heisman Trophy winner helped wrap-up a victory in St Louis. With a growing number of head injuries taking place in the NFL, Kurt Warner’s health may be scrutinized more than usual. In the event Warner sits out, Leinart would find himself under center in Tennessee with plenty to prove against the Titans.
Matt Leinart’s four years in the NFL have been full of ups and downs with the latter taking center stage in recent years. However, with 38-year old Kurt Warner currently the starter, the notion of Leinart taking snaps under center this year was more a question of when rather than if. After Warner took a shot to the head during a 21-13 win against the St. Louis Rams, Leinart’s chance might be coming this week.
Thankfully for the Cardinals, they sit atop the NFC West with a comfortable three-game lead in the division. Although Arizona would prefer not to concede any ground to the San Francisco 49ers, ensuring Warner’s long-term health is far more important than this week’s matchup with the surging Tennessee Titans. After a 0-6 start, the Titans have gone on to win four straight and will likely give the Cardinals everything they can handle on the road.
By far the biggest storyline heading into Week 12 will be the status of Warner. Several notable players have missed extended time due to concussions this season including the likes of Brian Westbrook, Clinton Portis and a handful of others. In addition, the NFL has received intense pressure from several different outlets regarding the long-term affects of concussions and other head-related injuries.
While Warner’s health is certainly a major concern, Leinart’s prospective as the future starter in Arizona is also on the forefront of the Cardinals’ coaching staff and front office. Leinart put forth an adequate performance in relief against the Rams completing 10-of-14 passes for 74 yards. Furthermore, Leinart managed to connect on a key third down late in the game to backup WR Early Doucet.
Unfortunately for Leinart he’s been plagued by inconsistencies and underwhelming arm strength throughout his four-year tenure in the desert. During Leinart’s time on the field this season the Arizona offense has looked out of sync, particularly when compared to that of Warner. That trend has been apparent since Warner took over as the full-time starter after Leinart went down with a broken collarbone early in the 2007 campaign.
If Warner is unable to go Sunday it could be a blessing in disguise for the Cardinals and Leinart. If Leinart continues to struggle, Arizona could have enough evidence to determine he’s not the team’s quarterback of the future after all. On the flip side, a solid outing by Leinart could rekindle thoughts of the former first-round draft pick as a dependable signal caller in the professional ranks.
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