Quarterback could derail Cardinals’ season before it gets started

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the Cardinals massive issues at the quarterback position.

The Cardinals have a couple of weakness that could be discussed, including offensive tackle, cornerback and inside linebacker. But none of them will impact their chances this season like the quarterback position will.

Gone is Kurt Warner, as well as the high-powered offense that the Cards have been able to run the past couple of years. The team traded Anquan Boldin to the Ravens during the offseason because quite frankly, they didn’t need him. (It’s also noteworthy that they felt as though he couldn’t stretch the field anymore.) The team knew the offense would focus more on the running game and less on the pass and thus, they could get by with the combination of Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston at wideout.

The look of the offense was changing and former first round pick Matt Leinart was going to usher in a new era.

But after giving him all the first-team reps this offseason and two starts in preseason, there’s growing speculation that Leinart won’t even make the final roster – nevertheless emerge as the regular season starter.

Reports have surfaced that there isn’t a lot of confidence in the locker room that Leinart can be the team’s long-term quarterback. Some have coined him “Captain Checkdown,” in reference to the way he looks to checkdown early in his progression instead of going through all of his reads and throwing downfield. While he has completed over 70% of his passes in preseason, he has failed to move the offense, which is why Derek Anderson is now the favorite to start.

Anderson has better footwork and arm strength than Leinart, and at this point he has a better command of the huddle. His teammates seemingly have more trust in him as well, which is why Leinart could be on his way out.

But Anderson also hasn’t done anything since the first 10 weeks of the 2007 season when he nearly led the Browns to a playoff berth. Heading into Week 11 of that year, he had thrown 20 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. But in those last seven games, he finished with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

The main concern about Anderson is that 1) he isn’t accurate and 2) he commits too many turnovers. At times, he has too much trust in his arm and tries to fit passes into windows that just aren’t there. He’s also incredibly streaky and is a terrible improviser.

Further down the depth chart are two intriguing youngsters in Max Hall and John Skelton. Hall has been impressive so far in preseason, completing 7 of 15 passes for 101 yards, a touchdown and just one interception. He also has good command of the offense and a quick release.

Skelton, a small school product out of Fordham, was impressive in his last preseason outing as well. He finished 5 for 6 for 84 yards and a touchdown and was thought to be in a battle with Hall for the No. 3 job, but if Leinart is let go then both rookies could wind up on the 53-man roster.

But they’re just that – rookies. No matter how impressive they may be in preseason, it’s a different animal when the games start counting. Maybe the Cards have found a gem in one of them, but as of right now neither of them can be counted on to lead Arizona this season.

And really, when it comes down to it, none of the quarterbacks on the current roster instills much confidence. Even the staunchest of supporters have to question whether Leinart or Anderson have the talent to lead the team back to the playoffs – especially considering neither of them has ever accomplished the feat.

That said, maybe Anderson will surprise or one of the rookies will come out of nowhere to lead the offense. This team still has Fitzgerald, Breaston and Beanie Wells, plus an aggressive, attacking defense that has the capability to set the offense up in good position.

I just wouldn’t bet on the Cardinals catching lightening in a bottle this year.

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