Behind Enemy Lines: Cardinals/49ers, Part II

In Part II of an exclusive four-part series,'s Craig Massei and's Amberly Richardson continue their back-and-forth interaction with five questions from Craig to Amberly. Will Matt Leinart ride the bench all year or will the 49ers see him as early as the third quarter on Sunday? Is Anquan Boldin a happy camper or resentful? These answers and much more inside.

Craig Massei, Editor in Chief, Kurt Warner over Matt Leinart? We could see that one coming from 750 miles away. How did an aging veteran beat out the poster boy franchise quarterback for the starting QB role to begin the season, and how painful a decision was it for the franchise to make, considering the Cards obviously want Leinart to be the guy, despite his getting-flakier-by-the-day reputation?

Amberly Richardson, Publisher, There is a lot of pressure to win in the organization. The Cardinals were on the brink of a winning season in 2007 and are only seeing "W's" in 2008. Arizona has defensive end Bertrand Berry, an 11-year veteran, telling ESPN that he can't remember any other team that he's played on that has a deeper roster. While most don't have the good fortune of more than a decade in the league, there is a winning air about the Cardinals heading into the season. The pieces are all there it's about the Cardinals putting them together, and Arizona thinks Warner is the right puppet master for the time being.

Everyone was rooting for Leinart to be the franchise quarterback that the Cardinals drafted him to be, but at the end of the day Warner has proven that he gets the job done.

As for Leinart's flaky reputation, I think he did a lot this offseason (after the hot tub ordeal) to clean up his image. He gave it all he had and then some to make a strong case for the starting role. Although, his cameo in the new movie "House Bunny" with Anna Faris didn't do much for his image as a playboy. To be fair, shooting was likely done way before he was forced to grow up in the eyes of the Cardinals' franchise.

CM: How fluid is the QB situation right now? Does Warner have a tenuous grip on the job? What are the chances we might actually see Leinart as soon as the third quarter Sunday if the game begins to get away from the Cards? Conversely, what are the chances of Warner keeping Leinart on the bench all season?

AR: Don't be surprised to see Leinart get more snaps than most backup quarterbacks. Warner is immobile in the pocket and just turned 37-years-old. I don't know many close to 40 guys who can withstand a 20-something pass rusher.

Warner did as he planned; he showed up everyday and was great everyday. The Cardinals want Warner to retire in Cardinal red, but eventually, I have no doubt that Leinart will take the reigns and run with it, but Warner has a firmer grasp that will help the Cardinals win this year and in the end, all the quarterback competition boils down to is putting the wins on the board immediately. Arizona is tired of thinking about next year.

The Cardinals have more of a spotlight on them than ever. With the Leinart pictures, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin contract situations, a former NFL and Super Bowl MVP taking the starting quarterback job over golden boy Leinart, all the drama is there and the Cardinals want people to keep watching.

Whisenhunt got in a bit of hot water with some of the talking heads that wanted him to make a decision and quit bouncing the quarterbacks back and forth like it was high school. I admire Whisenhunt for squaring up and taking his own route though. For the first few games, I see Warner taking all the snaps, but then the Cardinals working in Leinart. The last thing Arizona wants to do is have Leinart lose the progress he's made this offseason.

CM: So, is Anquan Boldin a happy camper now as the season is set to begin? What's up with his – ahem – new deal? Is he actually going to play now without one? We heard just back in July that Boldin felt the Cards had lied to him and he wouldn't re-sign with them. Is this guy holding smoldering resentment inside against his team, or is he good to go? What are the chances he might not be playing for Arizona this season or even this season after the trading deadline?

AR: Boldin was upset and for good reason. He said the Cardinals flat out lied to him and that's not cool in any business, but a bit of time has gone by. He looks like the old Boldin who is a team player through and through.

Boldin will show up to win this season. He will continue to be a leader and enjoyable teammate to be around, but he'll have to do all this without a new contract, at least this year. If next offseason he doesn't get taken care of, he'll be out of the desert. Like every year, Boldin has Pro Bowl aspirations. He'll play his heart out, so that every other team in the league wants him if the Cardinals can't come through.

CM: That said, at this point in their careers, is the Boldin/Larry Fitzgerald tandem just the best dang set of starting receivers in the entire NFL now? Does anybody really come close? What are the expectations for that duo this year, and how much will the offense be relying upon them, as they now appear to be Arizona's two top offensive weapons?

AR: Without a doubt the Fitzgerald-Boldin duo is the best in the league. The only other tandem that comes close is with the Detroit Lions followed by the New England Patriots. Fitzgerald and Boldin are the Cardinals main offensive attack, but they have three other receivers on the active roster who can help if needed.

On the ground, Edgerrin James can still produce 1,200-plus yard seasons. Fifth-round pick Tim Hightower isn't the home run back that Whisenhunt originally wanted, but he will like see 100 carries this season. Last year the Cardinals said they wanted to close the gap on the pass-rush ratio and get the margin closer to an even 50-50, but with Fitzgerald and Boldin downfield the goal seems unlikely.

CM:Fitzgerald and Boldin probably got more help getting open than they actually realized by having Bryant Johnson around in recent seasons as a No. 3 option behind them and beside them. How do you expect the loss of Johnson to affect the Arizona offense in general and Fitzgerald and Boldin in particular? Will it affect them at all? Might they be even more prolific now that he's not around? What are the Cards doing to replace him? With those two loaded guns on the edges, do they even need to replace him?

AR: Warner said that Johnson served as a security blanket. If Fitzgerald and Boldin were on one side of the football field, Warner had full confidence that Johnson could come up with big plays and win in one-on-one situations if the dynamic duo was being overloaded. Since every team that the Cardinals face will have a secondary eyeing Fitzgerald and Boldin, a No. 3 receiver is needed.

In camp, one of the bigger competitions was for Johnson's replacement, but the three guys who have the best chance of filling his cleats have played neck and neck. Rather than naming a No. 3 receiver, the Cardinals will use rookie Early Doucet, Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban all in that role depending on his strengths until one of them can rise above the rest and demonstrate he can be an every snap receiver like Johnson was.

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