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Leinart, Tebow among preseason developments to monitor

The opening week of preseason tends to leave more questions than answers, especially because starters don't play much. So it's hard to tell if their good or bad play is a sign of things to come.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked great. Eagles QB Kevin Kolb was so-so. Broncos QB Tim Tebow was the next coming or even more of a project depending on which side of the fence you sit in regards to the rookie.

We did get a good glimpse at how good Chargers rookie tailback Ryan Mathews could be and that the guy he replaced, LaDainian Tomlinson, might have something to offer the Jets in his third-down role.

The Seahawks' Charlie Whitehurst continued to show that he's an excellent preseason quarterback, while the Bears learned that Jay Cutler better not get hurt since potential backups don't want any part of going to Chicago.

Let's examine some potential developments as we move closer to the second full week of dress rehearsals:

Produce ... or else

It's a make-or-break season for Cardinals QB Matt Leinart, but replacing Kurt Warner is a stiff challenge. Vic Carucci examines the passers who must perform this season. **More ...**

Leinart needs to get sharp

Right after the game and following film review, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he didn't like what he saw out of the first-team offense. He clarified that he wasn't just talking about Matt Leinart, but guess who everyone else will point fingers toward if positive steps aren't taken? Leinart's backup, Derek Anderson, hardly lit it up, leaving the current impression of him the same as previous ones -- he is a reliable No. 2 who you don't want to put in the position of making plays. So Leinart seems safe -- but do the Cardinals?

Leinart completed 6 of 7 passes for 49 yards, which is better than a lot of starters did in the preseason. However, the overall offense has to be sharper against the Titans this week, and Leinart needs to be the needle tightening the thread.

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer rebounded nicely after a shaky Hall of Fame game, as did the rest of the offense. Besides having to replace the super-accurate Kurt Warner, Leinart needs to seize control of the offense -- if not the team -- if Arizona is going to take the NFC West crown for the third straight time.

**Next up @ Tennessee on Monday**: Fellow 2006 draft pick Vince Young has converted his teammates and coaching staff. Will Leinart?

Expect Tebow to be eventual No. 2

Tim Tebow's throwing motion can be picked apart to its most finite detail, but unless he ends up being a total catastrophe the rest of the preseason, he should be Kyle Orton's backup.

In the short term, unless the Broncos plan to keep three quarterbacks on the 45-man game day roster when the regular season starts, Brady Quinn will be No. 3 since Tebow is projected to be part of certain packages. Philadelphia went through this same dilemma last season with Kolb and Michael Vick behind Donovan McNabb. Tebow already showed that he's a threat running the ball, and that could be an asset for a team that will have to manufacture points.

Secondly, Tebow is Denver's quarterback of the future. Quinn isn't. If Orton goes down to injury, odds are the Broncos hopes for a playoff berth are in jeopardy. Getting Tebow some game action in that scenario will help him develop.

**Next up vs. Detroit on Saturday**: Tebow's home debut. No. 15 jerseys will be everywhere. Can Tebow start fulfilling the hype -- and hope?

Bulluck the answer to Giants' MLB spot?

Signing former Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck was a nice pickup, especially since he's been so productive and pretty much sets the standard for professionalism. He's projected to move from outside to middle linebacker for the Giants, but would that be the best fit?

Bulluck didn't play against the Jets on Monday night as he continues to recover from major knee surgery. Jonathan Goff, Gerris Wilkinson and Phillip Dillard took turns with Goff starting. By all appearances, all three played fairly well. Film breakdown could tell otherwise but the need to move Bulluck inside might have been marginalized.

I was with the Titans last week and there were some folks wondering how Bulluck would do because he's not so much a masher -- as the middle spot lends itself to -- as he is a playmaker. New Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell might be looking for that style of Mike 'backer instead of the type New York had for years with Antonio Pierce. In the meantime, Wilkinson, Goff and Dillard combined for 12 tackles, two stops for loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Not bad.

Bulluck, based on his resume, could still be more effective than either three -- that's why the Giants signed him and changed his position. New York is being cautious with Bulluck so he'll be ready for Week 1. We'll see if they need him by then.

**Next up vs. Pittsburgh on Saturday**: Bulluck could be held out again, but should he play, the Steelers will come right at him as they hope to improve their running game.

Pittsburgh's QB quandary

Ben Roethlisberger didn't play in the preseason-opening victory over the Lions but saw starter Byron Leftwich under duress. Big Ben figures to get some snaps vs. the Giants so he can have some game action before his six-game suspension begins to start the regular season, but how many?

This might be a good time to start the mobile Dennis Dixon and rotate Roethlisberger in. Dixon must continue to learn, and the first unit needs to get used to playing with him. Roethlisberger won't be around soon, and Leftwich has been susceptible to injuries. Coach Mike Tomlin is beginning to see some of the minor headaches Roethlisberger's suspension is causing, but even if the QB wasn't in trouble, these are situations Tomlin would be contemplating at this point.

**Next up at New York on Saturday**: More than the quarterback issues, Pittsburgh has to tighten things up along the offensive line, otherwise, it won't matter who is throwing the ball.

49ers make a sensible move

Once 49ers running back Glen Coffee surprisingly decided to retire, Brian Westbrook seemed like the perfect fit for what San Francisco is trying to put together. With two rookies along the offensive line, Westbrook is a great option on third down to help with protections and as a receiving threat for Alex Smith, whose decision-making could come while he's on the move because of protection lapses.

Westbrook also adds a needed veteran presence to a very young team with some ambitious players (Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree) who could help the 49ers win the NFC West if they stay focused. Westbrook likely won't play much, if any, this week, but he will get some action before the season-opener at Seattle.

**Next up vs. Minnesota on Sunday**:49ers rookie RB Anthony Dixon, who rushed for 100 yards on 21 carries in a win over the Colts last week, will be the workhorse again. No need to put any more mileage on Westbrook's 30-year-old legs.

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