Leinart Handling Backup Role Well

Matt Leinart said all the right things, and appeared to mean them, when he met with the media for the first time since being benched. Coach Ken Whisenhunt opted to start Kurt Warner over Leinart, who had been the team's No. 1 quarterback since the 2007 season ended. "I'm disappointed but you can't get down," Leinart said. "It was tough to take because we're all competitors. We all want to play."

Matt Leinart called the evaluation process fair and said he emerged better off for the experience. "It did make me a better quarterback," he said. "And I'm just going to take that and keep on getting better."

The Cardinals have denied an ESPN report that coaches were concerned about Leinart's arm strength and consistency.

Leinart said he hasn't paid too much attention to critics, other than to use their comments as motivation.

"I've said last week or two weeks ago I know I'm criticized for a lot of stuff that I do, every single day, every snap," he said. "But I think this preseason got me better. I think it got me tougher mentally."


--QB Kurt Warner didn't get a lot of playing time in the preseason, but he doesn't need much to be ready. Warner looked good in his outings. He threw the ball on time and on target.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald had perhaps his most productive offseason. With a new contract, Fitzgerald didn't slack off. He made great plays in practice and in games. Coaches want him to improve his running ability after he catches the ball, and it remains to be seen if he can do that.

--WR Anquan Boldin insists his contract squabble won't interfere with his performance. It's probably true in Boldin's case. Winning means a lot to him and he's fully healthy now after dealing with a balky hamstring early in camp.

--RB Edgerrin James is going to get plenty of carries this year, but he might not hit the 320 mark, as is his custom. That's because rookie Tim Hightower is going to take some of the load. James should still be productive, although he won't break many long runs.

--RB Tim Hightower emerged this preseason as an effective backup to Edgerrin James and he could be the team's short-yardage and goal-line back. He makes decisive cuts and has a good burst through the hole. He also showed he has more speed than expected.

--TE Leonard Pope is still trying to round into form after suffering a severe ankle injury at the end of last year. Pope doesn't look as fast as he did last year, but he has played better in recent weeks. He is a real weapon in the red zone because of his hands and 6-8 frame.

--WR Jerheme Urban is pressing Steve Breaston for the No. 3 job. Urban caught the ball in traffic in the preseason, something he had trouble doing last year.

--WR Steve Breaston is the team's fastest receiver and the club used him on both deep passes and drag routes underneath in the preseason. He can be hard to bring down if allowed to hit top speed.

--LT Mike Gandy is expected to play after suffering a bone bruise on his left knee in the last preseason game. Gandy practiced Monday although he is sore.

--NT Alan Branch, a key backup, has a sprained ankle and his status is day-to-day. Branch's health is important because the Cards already have another nose tackle, Gabe Watson, who is out with a knee injury.

--SS Adrian Wilson was spectacular in the preseason, even though the team ran vanilla schemes. Wilson made several plays against the run and was impressive in shutting down screen passes.

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