Is Leinart the Cardinals QB of the Future?

Matt Leinart and Lyle Sendlein (Getty)

The Cardinals might not be sure if Matt Leinart is their quarterback of the future, but they know now he at least can effectively replace Kurt Warner in the short term. Leinart started last Sunday for the first time since 2007 and completed 21 of 31 passes for 220 yards. He wasn't intercepted but he didn't throw a touchdown either.

Leinart led the Cardinals to one touchdown drive, but it would have been the game winner had the defense not let the Titans go on a 99-yard touchdown drive as time expired. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was conservative early with his play-calling but loosened up as Leinart became comfortable and more confident.

"I think the natural tendency is to do that a little bit," Whisenhunt said. "You don't want to give him too much to start with because you want him to be able to feel comfortable with what you are doing. He wasn't letting the pressure affect him. He moved well in the pocket. Obviously, he made some big plays for us."

Leinart didn't get any extra snaps last week in practice, because the Cardinals felt confident that Warner was going to play. But Warner's neck was sore and stiff all week, and by Saturday his vision still wasn't improved.

His eyes were sensitive to light, and didn't feel quite right. Leinart had an idea during the week that the chance of playing was high. By Saturday, he knew it was likely he would start.

The ability to play well without a lot of practice is "the essence of a pro," Whisenhunt said. "Backup quarterbacks are held in high esteem, ones that are successful, because they can do that. That was the question about Matt.

"That's one of the questions that is answered for me now. Can he do that in that role? I felt good about how Matt has prepared. I always felt that if he had an opportunity to play for a sustained period, he would do well."

NOTES, QUOTES

--QB Kurt Warner missed a start last week for the first time since 2007, when he was Matt Leinart's backup. Warner had started 41 consecutive games for the Cardinals. He missed the Titans game with a concussion and he likely will be questionable this week.

"It feels like a light sensitivity or my eyes aren't quite adjusted," Warner said. "I had some tightness in my neck all week, so I think we were trying to gauge whether what I was feeling was coming from the issues in my neck or whether it was an issue with my head. If we could've pinpointed it and believed that it was just muscular and in the neck, then I probably would've played."

--WR Larry Fitzgerald chose his words carefully after catching only four passes for 34 yards.

Asked if he wanted to get the ball downfield more, Fitzgerald said: "We did what we had to do to go out there and try to put ourselves in position to win." Then he smiled.

--QB Matt Leinart wore a glove for the first time in a game, and he said it improved his grip on the ball. "I told Kurt (Warner) I'm doomed," Leinart said. "I'm doomed because I'm still young in my career and I liked it."

--RB LaRod Stephens-Howling became the first Cardinals rookie to return a kick for a touchdown since Roy Green returned one 106 yards in 1979.

--The Cardinals insist the Titans' 99-yard game winning drive won't have an impact on them this week against the Vikings. "It was just one of those plays, a 50-50 chance and they came down with it," said safety Antrel Rolle.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Kurt Warner continues to suffer from concussion symptoms and will be evaluated as the week progresses. Warner's eyes are sensitive to light and don't feel quite right, he said.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald caught his 500th career pass in the game. Fitzgerald reached that mark in 87 games, second fastest in history. Teammate Anquan Boldin did it in 80 games.

--OLB Chike Okeafor played after missing two games with a sore back, but didn't make much of an impact. That left outside spot has become a position of concern for the Cardinals. Backup Bertrand Berry hasn't done much and rookies Will Davis and Cody Brown are out with injuries.

--LT Mike Gandy aggravated a pelvis injury against the Titans and will be questionable this week. Gandy has strained muscles in the area. Jeremy Bridges replaced him and was effective.

--ILB Karlos Dansby aggravated a shoulder injury and didn't play for much of the fourth quarter in Tennessee. Dansby likely will be limited in practice this week. Ali Highsmith is his backup but there is a significant drop-off in talent.

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