Coach Whisenhunt Endorses Leinart, Again
Matt Leinart (Getty)
Matt Leinart (Getty)

Posted Mar 23, 2010


On the same day the Cardinals signed a backup quarterback, coach Ken Whisenhunt gave his strongest endorsement yet for Matt Leinart as his starting quarterback. Throughout the off-season, Whisenhunt has been careful not to name Leinart the starter, although he has praised him at every opportunity.

But when the Cardinals announced the signing of Derek Anderson as the backup quarterback, Whisenhunt made a point of saying that Leinart was his No.1 quarterback.

"Certainly Matt has earned the right to be the guy," Whisenhunt said, "and that's the way we're going forward."

The Cardinals needed to replenish the position, even though they had Leinart ready to take over after Kurt Warner announced his retirement. The No. 3 quarterback last season, Brian St. Pierre, is an unrestricted free agent and spent all of last season dealing with back pain.

Since the end of the year, Whisenhunt has professed confidence in Leinart, but he's also joked that he didn't really have a choice because Leinart was the only quarterback under contract.

Enter Anderson, who is 26. He has five years of experience, one more than Leinart, and has started 34 games.

But Anderson also has been wildly inconsistent in his NFL career. He has a strong, but erratic arm. While the Cardinals are intrigued by his skills, coaches also know his shortcomings.

Anderson signed a two-year $7.25 million deal that includes $3.25 million of guarantees. The exact structure of the deal isn't known, but it's likely most of that $3.25 million will be paid this season. The Cardinals don't want to be on the hook for a lot of money in 2011 if Anderson doesn't impress this season.

Anderson said he understands that he's joining the Cardinals as the No. 2 quarterback and looks forward to proving himself.

NOTES, QUOTES

--OLB Joey Porter agreed to a three-year deal with the Cardinals worth $17.5 million, according to ESPN. Porter was released by Miami earlier this month, and is a good fit for a Cardinals team in need of an increased outside pass rush.

"It is exciting on many levels," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Two areas that come to mind are his productivity on the field, (because) getting 26.5 sacks over the last two years is pretty impressive, especially considering last year with not even playing a full season.

"Also the mentality he brings, it's something we have made great progress with as a team. Having another veteran player, who has had great success in this league, to contribute to that will only help us in an area defensively where we want to improve." Porter will take over for Chike Okeafor, a free agent Arizona won't attempt to re-sign.

--The Cardinals signed an outside linebacker, Paris Lenon, but he likely will be a backup and special teams player. Lenon isn't regarded as a starter but the Cardinals have had success with middle of the roads veterans before.

--New secondary coach Donnie Henderson's relationship with safety Kerry Rhodes played a part in the team's decision to trade for Rhodes. Henderson formerly was the defensive coordinator with the Jets when Rhodes was a rookie.

--Coach Ken Whisenhunt would like the team to build an indoor facility to aid the team's preparations early in the season. Practicing indoors would help the team avoid 100-degree heat. The Bidwill family agreed to work on building the facility, provided the economy improves and a new collective bargaining agreement can be worked out.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's pretty cool. Larry's one of the guys I've watched on tape and over the years. He's a phenomenal player and obviously, I look forward to getting to work him and the rest of the guys. They've got a very sturdy receiving corps." -- QB Derek Anderson on playing with receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

OFFSEASON UPDATE

The Cardinals needed to plug holes in the starting defense and improve depth on that side of the ball.

Two weeks into free agency, big questions remain.

Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby left via free agency for Miami, and the Cardinals haven't replaced him yet. They tried to sign Larry Foote, but he went to the Steelers instead.

The options remaining in free agency aren't great, so the Cardinals likely are going to go with a youngster on the inside next to Gerald Hayes.

Dansby is a huge loss. While he wasn't a Pro Bowl player, he was very good the past few years, and he never came off the field. Finding an inside linebacker who can play in all situations isn't easy.

The replacement could be Reggie Walker, a rookie free agent last year. Or it could be a draft pick.

The club moved quickly to fill the void left at free safety when Antrel Rolle signed with the Giants. The Cardinals traded to get Jets safety Kerry Rhodes, who is comparable in talent to Rolle.

Still, the Cardinals could use an additional pass rusher, either as an outside linebacker or a situational end.

The club was set on offense except at the most important position, quarterback. Matt Leinart was the only QB under contract entering the off-season.

The team took its time addressing that need, signing unrestricted free agent Derek Anderson almost two weeks into free agency.

The club made an offer to restricted free agent Charlie Whitehurst, but when that situation dragged out, the Cardinals decided they couldn't wait. So they moved to sign Anderson, who has starting experience.

MEDICAL WATCH: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie underwent surgery to repair a torn MCL ligament in his knee. Rodgers-Cromartie will miss some time this spring but should be 100 percent by the start of training camp.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Pass rusher: The Cardinals did a decent job with pressuring QBs this year, but they lack an elite rusher that could help close out games. The club signed Joey Porter in free agency and it drafted Cody Brown and Will Davis last year. But a 3-4 team can't have too many outside linebacker prospects.

2. Inside linebacker: Karlos Dansby left via free agency, and the team doesn't have an heir apparent. Reggie Walker and Ali Highsmith, two former undrafted rookies, are unproven. Walker appears to have more upside but he barely played last season. The other starting inside linebacker, Gerald Hayes, struggled with a back problem last year and his production dropped.

3. Quarterback: Matt Leinart was the only QB under contract until Derek Anderson was signed to a two-year deal this week. Anderson will enter the off-season as the backup and the Cardinals are expected to draft a quarterback if they don't sign another free agent.



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