Leinart vs. Anderson: Who Has the Edge?

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The Cardinals' quarterback battle has been on and off during the past month, but the latest developments are leaning to the competition being back on. Starter Matt Leinart has done very little during the preseason but he's also been pulled early in both games. Meanwhile, Derek Anderson showed improvement Monday night and was a few missed throws away from a stellar performance.

While Matt Leinart still has the edge at quarterback, the competition is getting closer. As of now, the only realistic competition is Derek Anderson but he's closing the gap. Furthermore, Anderson still has two preseason games remaining to move even further towards the top of the depth chart. Rookies John Skelton and Max Hall have both impressed but they're clearly platooning for the third spot at this point.

Leinart has done nothing wrong so far during the preseason but he's also done nothing of significance. Leinart's stat line of 10 of 13 for 77 yards and no touchdowns is almost as lackadaisical as his in-game interview on Monday Night Football. Leinart's performance was the ultimate nonfactor as he failed to lead the Cardinals' offense to a single first down on three drives.

Although it may be no fault of Leinart's, the Arizona offense immediately picked up once Anderson took the reins. The play calling was much more creative, featuring play-action passes as well as targeting receivers down the field. Perhaps coach Ken Whisenhunt is keeping the wraps on Leinart but that makes little no sense given that Leinart has a great deal to prove, even in the preseason.

Matt Leinart

Taking it to another notch is the fact that the offense looked more balanced and crisp with Anderson in the game. Anderson's arm strength demands attention from opposing defenses and he's not afraid to air it out downfield. On the contrary, Leinart's main criticisms clearly remain his inability to stretch the defense and his lack of arm strength.

Following last week's game against the Houston Texans, the main things holding Anderson back was his decision making and his lack of touch on short throws. Apparently Anderson has been working on both of those areas, as he displayed specific progress in each aspect. If Anderson could have hooked up with an open Steve Breaston in the end zone, his case to start would be that much stronger.

As of now, it almost seems as if Whisenhunt is attempting to keep Leinart's confidence at bay while allowing Anderson every opportunity to make a move at the starting job. Leinart clearly needs work under center and he was expected to play well in the second quarter if not the entire first half. Anderson also needs his time with the first stringers, but if Leinart's the true starter, he deserves precedent.

As the preseason wraps up and Week 1 of the regular season approaches, look for the Cardinals' quarterback race to grow even closer in the coming weeks. It's looking more and more like Anderson is a better fit to lead the Arizona offense but like it or not, Leinart remains the starter until otherwise stated.

Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com

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