Huff's success compared to Leinart

The comparisons are inevitable. Oakland Raiders safety Michael Huff and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart will forever be linked.

Michael Huff knew it would come to this.

He just didn't know it would come with all these losses.

The Oakland Raiders host the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, giving the local fans and media a chance to second-guess the decision of the Raiders to select Huff over Matt Leinart in the NFL draft.

Huff and Leinart last met on the field last Jan. 4 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, with Huff and the University of Texas beating Leinart and Southern California 41-38 to win the national championship.

Leinart completed 29 of 40 passes for 365 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Texas quarterback Vince Young passed for 267 yards and rushed for 200, as the quarterbacks dominated the action.

But it was Huff, a versatile safety, who helped set Young up for the game-winning touchdown, stopping USC's LenDale White on fourth-and-1 and giving the Longhorns the ball one last time.

To Huff, the Leinart he saw playing against the Bears on Monday night looks a lot like the one he saw in the Rose Bowl.

"He looked poised, accurate, confident, all the same things he did in college," Huff said.

It's been a culture shock for both Huff and Leinart in the NFL. At Texas, Huff's teams went 46-6 in four years. Leinart was 37-2 as a starter. The Raiders are 0-5, the last winless team in the NFL, the Cardinals are 1-5 and blew a 23-3 lead against the Chicago Bears Monday night.

"It's very hard," Huff said. "I've lost (almost) as many games as I lost my whole college career, so it's a little different."

While Leinart is getting good reviews in his two starts with the Cardinals, Huff has been more anonymous with the Raiders, where he has started at strong safety all five games. He had two solid games in coverage against tight ends Antonio Gates of San Diego and Todd Heap of Baltimore, but still does not have his first interception, forced fumble or fumble recovery.

"I try to be patient," Huff said. "It's a long season, we've got a long way to go. Maybe when I get my first pick we'll start rolling. You've got to be patient and it will come."

Raiders coach Art Shell thinks Huff is playing solid football for a rookie and is nearing a breakthrough.

"You'd like to see more production, but you know he's a young kid," Shell said. "He's going to have some ups and downs. He's growing. He's learning. Once he learns the angles of how to get where he needs to be in a short period of time, the interceptions will come. He'll get his plays."

Huff is told it would be poetic for him to get his first interception against Leinart.


Changing offensive coordinators should result in some noticeable differences in both style and substance if the rhetoric flowing from team headquarters is to be believed.

Mike Kruczek, promoted from quarterbacks coach to coordinator, promised to bring energy and passion to the job, and he'll make changes both in play calling and scheme.

"Don't want to do it," Kruczek said of the team's conservative approach in the second half of last Monday's loss to Chicago. "Obviously we have a strong defense and we want to be smart with what we call, but we do not get conservative, that is not going to happen."

Keith Rowen was demoted from offensive coordinator and will stay with the team as offensive assistant. To label him as conservative, however, is unfair. Last year under his guidance, the Cardinals passed an average of 42 times a game and led the NFL in rushing.

The team became conservative in the second half because that's what coach Dennis Green wanted to do. He had a 20-point lead and his defense was stonewalling the Bears.

But Green isn't patient in many things, and this is the seventh coach that he has fired, demoted or forced out in 2 1/2 years.

Kruczek will be more demonstrative on the field and isn't afraid to raise his voice.

"It's more of a college mentality than a pro mentality," Kruczek said. "But I think in our situation it's something that needs to happen."

Kruczek is going to make some changes in the run game, adjusting blocking schemes to better fit the talent along the offensive line. The Cardinals has been running a lot of stretch plays, which seemed to fit the style of running back Edgerrin James, who hunts and pecks for holes.

Kruczek wouldn't specify what changes he plans, but there will be more play in which James is asked to hit the whole quicker. "We may have to change his spots a little bit and run downhill at times because that's what this scheme calls for," Kruczek said.

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