Matt Leinart (Getty)
Since arriving in Arizona, head coach Ken Whisenhunt has established one of the most potent offenses in the NFC. That success has often been due to an explosive air attack, coordinated by veteran Kurt Warner, who threw for nearly 16,000 yards and 100 touchdowns in five seasons in the desert. With Warner now retired, can Matt Leinart fill the massive void left at the quarterback position?
Fifth-year quarterback Matt Leinart has been a starter for the Arizona Cardinals in the past but was unable to maintain a hold on the starting position due to injuries and inconsistent play. Leinart has shown flashes of the former Heisman Trophy winner who everyone thought would rescue the franchise in 2006. However, Leinart has not been able to live up to expectations at this point in his career.
Entering the 2010 campaign, Leinart has been a part of the organization for four years, three of those working under the guidance of Whisenhunt. Entering the final year of his contract, everyone is eager to see what Leinart can do with his second chance. Major questions still remain leaving one to ask how is this time around going to be different.
Unlike his previous stint as a starter, Leinart has a more balanced offensive attack around him, especially at the skill positions. Having Larry Fitzgerald to throw to and more importantly Beanie Wells to hand off to, should relieve Leinart of the pressures he endured in previous seasons. Additionally, Arizona’s offensive line has been upgraded with additions such as Alan Faneca and Rex Hadnot.
The former USC product has also changed his off-the-field habits, committing himself less to the night clubs and more to scouting reports and the film room. This coupled with Whisenhunt working to improve Leinart’s technique have the Santa Ana native on the brink of becoming a solid starting quarterback, who can lead his team back to the playoffs.
Leinart displayed much improved poise and limited his mistakes last season in a road start against the Tennessee Titans. He not only managed the game effectively, but had the Cardinals prepared to steal a win before a Vince Young touchdown pass as time expired spoiled Leinart’s impressive showing.
Leinart has gained the confidence of his head coach and gelled with his quarterbacks coach, Chris Miller. Leinart has great support around him with one of the best receiving corps in the league along with a progressing running game and offensive line.
As of now, Leinart’s NFL career looks a little like Leinart as a three-year-old: cross-eyed, overweight and subject to ridicule. But he’s matured since those days and so can his career in the professional ranks. Time is running out but 2010 will likely prove to be a crossroads in Leinart’s career, for better or for worse.
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