Cards downplay move to start Anderson over Leinart vs. Bears

Matt Leinart has been benched after just two preseason games, this after the Arizona Cardinals gave him the starting quarterback job following Kurt Warner's retirement.

Lombardi: Leinart might need change

"Matt Leinart has not been accurate," Michael Lombardi writes. "He has not looked quick-minded or decisive with the ball. In fact, he has looked slow behind center, making the entire offense follow suit." **More ...**

It could be just a temporary move -- or maybe not.

"Well, I don't think we've played really well enough offensively to make any determination other than we need to get better," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said Thursday. "We're looking at different combinations of people."

What Leinart will be looking at is Derek Anderson, signed to be his backup, starting in Saturday night's preseason meeting with the Chicago Bears.

Whisenhunt's expectations aren't that high. He would just like to see a few first downs.

"I'd like to see us operate a little better early in the game," Whisenhunt said. "That's not necessarily the first quarter, that's the first quarter, the second quarter. Seems like last week we went three three-and-outs, and then we had a drive going.

"I'd like to see us perform a little better earlier in the game."

Leinart, the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft, hasn't been able to do the job.

Leinart started for the Cardinals in a 24-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night and lasted all of nine plays. He couldn't produce a first down or any points. Leinart was a pedestrian 4-of-6 passing for 28 yards against the Titans and has completed 10 of 13 throws for 77 yards in the Cardinals' first two preseason games.

Leinart longest pass of the preseason has been 16 yards, and he has been sacked twice.

It seems that Leinart has the support of former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who made an appearance on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" on Wednesday.

"I think he's done everything right over the last four years," Warner said of Leinart. "He's continued to learn, he's continued to grow. He gets more command of this offense every time I see him.

"The one question mark I think everybody has is, what is he going to do when it comes game time? You're in those situations time in and time out, and you've got to prove yourself. And that's the one thing that Matt hasn't had the opportunity to do over the last few years. And that's really the hardest part because he's not really going to get that opportunity until the season starts and, unfortunately or fortunately, they've got to make that decision much sooner than that."

A league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora on Thursday that despite the fifth-year pro's struggles, the Cardinals won't make a move at quarterback and will enter the season with Leinart, Anderson and rookie Max Hall on the roster. The team is pleased with how Hall is progressing, and he could see game action by 2011. In the meantime, Leinart and Anderson will compete for the starting job.

This offseason, the Cardinals internally discussed the possibility of acquiring Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck -- who's highly regarded by the Arizona coaching staff -- with Leinart possibly going the other way, the source told La Canfora. However, nothing materialized because the Cardinals determined Hasselbeck wouldn't be dealt. Some in the Cardinals' organization were high on Marc Bulger, too, but the former St. Louis Rams starter ended up signing a lucrative free-agent deal with the Baltimore Ravens.

Dealing Leinart now isn't a real consideration, and receiving value for him would be difficult.

Whisenhunt was asked if he explained to Leinart why Anderson worked with the Cardinals' first-team offense Thursday in their lone chance to prepare for the Bears.

"I'm sure that nobody on this team wants to be in that situation," Whisenhunt said. "Once again, I think it's not anything against Matt or the quarterback position. It's we're looking at different people and trying to find out what's the best combination for our team right now."

Anderson, who spent his first five NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns, is the quarterback with the most completions (24), throws (41) and yards (193) on the Cardinals' roster. His longest completion went for 37 yards.

Anderson came in on the Cardinals' first drive of the second quarter Monday and moved them 62 yards in eight plays, giving Arizona a first-and-goal at the Tennessee 6 before misfiring on two passes into the end zone.

Whisenhunt said Anderson will play approximately the first quarter in a flip of how the Cardinals used the quarterbacks against the Titans. The coach said it was an opportunity to see players in different roles as they also switch up at linebacker, cornerback and on the offensive line to evaluate personnel.

Anderson was told Thursday morning that he would be working with the first-team offense.

"I don't know where we'll go from here, but continue to work and get better every single day and see what happens," Anderson said after the Cardinals finished practicing at Vanderbilt University.

This already had been an unusual week for the Cardinals (1-1). They broke camp last Saturday and have been in Nashville, Tenn., since flying into town Sunday. They played the Titans and stuck around Nashville to avoid the long flight back to Arizona before hitting the road again to play Chicago (0-2).

Anderson said he believed practice Thursday was good after the Cardinals practiced with the Titans on Wednesday.

"Threw it well and just continue to try to get the ball in the right spots," he said.

No matter who has been at quarterback, it hasn't been easy for Arizona with all the injuries at receiver. Larry Fitzgerald sprained his right knee during the 19-16 preseason-opening loss to the Houston Texans, and Early Doucet missed the Tennessee game with an abdominal strain. Darren Mougey broke his hand Wednesday, and Andre Roberts hurt his shoulder Monday night.

Fitzgerald increased his work Thursday, but the Cardinals' goal is having the Pro Bowl receiver ready for the Sept. 12 season opener at St. Louis. Doucet returned to practice Thursday and might play at Chicago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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