Offseason Battle Primer: Leinart vs. Anderson

The Arizona Cardinals have been through offseason quarterback battles before. Most recently, Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner were put through the wringer. Warner easily won the battle, and the Cardinals never wanted to look back. With the starting job now his to lose, Leinart hopes to win the war. But Derek Anderson is waiting in the trenches.

The Arizona Cardinals began this offseason with just one quarterback on the roster, Matt Leinart. So, it wasn't a secret the Cardinals needed to add depth to that position. They also needed to bring in a player who could push Leinart, 27, for that starting role.

"I think everybody on our team knows that they've got to play and play well to keep their positions," Ken Whisenhunt said. "Matt understands the sense of urgency about that position."

As part of the urgency, the Cardinals signed Derek Anderson in March. Anderson, who turns 27 next month, has window appeal. He started in 15 games for the Cleveland Browns in 2007 and rounded out the year with a 82.5 quarterback rating. He hopes that's not his only career year.

Derek Anderson

"I think a fresh start was something that I wanted," Anderson said. "Getting out of Cleveland and getting out there and compete and kind of prove that I can play; 2007 was a great year, but the last couple of years haven't been, obviously, good for me or the team I was playing on. So I am just excited about a new opportunity with a new team."

This time last year, Leinart also held on to past accolades. But after a career of sitting behind a future Hall of Fame quarterback, a season-ending shoulder injury and overall mediocre, hold-your-breath performances, he put on a show in the NFL. After a week of bench thoughts, Leinart started in Kurt Warner's (concussion) place in Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans. The former Heisman Trophy winner displayed pin-point accuracy and the emotion that seemed lost.

"That is the one thing you can say about Matt: he has won when he's played, at the college level especially," Whisenhunt said. "He's started some games in the NFL and hasn't done badly. He's never gotten the chance to settle in and play. But I think, once again, he does have the pedigree of having had success.

"He's a good football player. That's why he was drafted where he was drafted. When you get into a situation he did, playing behind a quarterback like Kurt and the level he was playing, that's tough. But Aaron Rodgers has seemed to certainly respond to that very well after being behind Brett Favre. And we're obviously hoping for a lot of the similar things to happen."

Anderson is waiting in the wings if it doesn't. This offseason battle doesn't end when the Cardinals leave training camp. If Leinart is indeed the starter next season, Arizona won't be shy about benching him if he can't hang. If Anderson can't either, somebody needs to find a paddle.

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