Training Camp Battle Preview: Quarterback

Two players are competing for the chance to lead the Arizona Cardinals into the 2008 season. "The Hype" (Matt Leinart) and "Father Time" (Kurt Warner) each bring certain qualities that will either make or break the team's progress. Does Leinart have what it takes to be the Cardinals future? Or is Warner the best option to unleash the Cardinals offensive firepower?

Simply put, Matt Leinart is a victim of success. Leinart was the 10th overall draft pick in 2006, out of USC. At 6'5, 230, he is built like a prototypical quarterback. After cruising through a college career that rarely saw his team challenged, he now faces scores of fans that are questioning his ability to lead the Cardinals to the playoffs. USC lost only two games during Leinart's tenure and perhaps the lack of challenges in college contributed to his lackadaisical approach once he reached the NFL. One of the most frustrating aspects about Leinart's plight is that while his abilities are NFL quality, his dedication may not be. The only person standing between Leinart and a Pro Bowl caliber career is himself.

On a positive note, the report coming out of mini-camp is that Leinart has finally taken his preparation to the next level. With his newfound commitment, Leinart could be on the verge of a breakout season. The potential for excellence is evident in Leinart, yet it does not always shine through.


Matt Leinart
Getty

In one instance, it became overwhelming apparent that Leinart had a chance to be great. During the 2006 season the Cardinals went into a Monday Night football game with little hope of victory. They were over matched at nearly every position against the eventual NFC champion Chicago Bears. Against one of the best defenses in recent history Leinart proceeded to go to work like his name was Peyton Manning and the Bears was a college practice squad that had accidentally wandered onto the field. Even though the outcome was a heartbreaking loss (and a Dennis Green You Tube hall of fame rant), the point that Leinart was the real deal had been made.

Leinart will have every opportunity to take over as the starter this season and with an array of targets to choose from his maturation into a solid NFL starter will certainly be made easier. If he falters don't expect the Cardinals to throw away an entire season developing an uncertain talent.

Nobody knows being in the right place at the right time like Kurt Warner. Thanks to a dubious tackle of Trent Green by Rodney Harrison, Warner was thrust into the starring role of the "Greatest Show on Turf". A true Cinderella story, he led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 1999. However, like seeing your favorite band in concert twenty years after their last hit single, the songs might all sound the same, but its not quite as good as you remember it. While its only been ten years since Warner's heyday, that is a lifetime for a quarterback.


Kurt Warner
AP

Warner's gunslinger mentality does not always mesh well with Whisenhunt's methodical attack. As Warner approaches 38-years-old, his body becomes more and more susceptible to injury. His inability to hold onto the football when sacked is also an issue with the coaching staff.

The one attribute that he does not lack is drive. Warner still believes he is competent enough to handle the QB duties of an elite NFL franchise. Last season Warner proved that he was still capable of torching opponents when protected. After throwing for 27 touchdowns in 2007, it is obvious he still has the gusto to compete at a high level.

In spite of Whisenhunt making it abundantly clear that Leinart is the starter, Warner is not showing any signs of relinquishing his duties without further consideration from the coaching staff. As the epitome of a professional, Warner will give the Cardinals all that he has even if Leinart takes a firm grasp on the starter role. As a seasoned veteran he will have plenty of useful tips to pass down to Leinart.

Warner has come a long way since his days as a grocery store clerk with an NFL dream. He has overcome obstacles on countless occasions and become an icon for the underdog. Unfortunately for him, youth may be the one hurdle he is unable to clear. Leinart is viewed as the long-term solution and with the amount of money invested; the Cardinals' brass would love to see a positive return. This could be the season that Leinart proves his value and takes the Cardinals to the playoffs. While "Father Time" has all the experience, Leinart has put a substantial amount of effort this off-season and it may be time to start believing "The Hype".


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