5 years since he was drafted out of USC, Matt Leinart is ready to take the reins in Arizona.
Well, "ready" in the sense that Kurt Warner no longer stands in his way.
The Cardinals brought in Derek Anderson instead to keep Leinart honest.
Do you get the sense, like me, that Anderson will get his share of playing time this year?
It just doesn't seem like Leinart is ever going to take on a full-time starting role in the National Football League.
The big switch at quarterback would be a big deal even if it was the only major change the Cardinals' offense was going through. But it's not.
For the first time in seven years, there will be no dual threat at receiver for the Cardinals. Instead of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin as targets, Leinart (or Anderson) will be throwing to Fitzgerald or Steve Breaston at receiver, along with maybe Early Doucet or tight end Ben Patrick. Breaston will be thrust into a major role, and he could respond well - but I don't think he's as tough as Boldin, and I question if he can withstand that kind of workload. There's a good chance the Cardinals' best option as a replacement for Boldin at receiver could now be playing for the Kansas CIty Chiefs - former Cardinals receiver Jerheme Urban. After a legit number one receiver in Fitzgerald, and maybe a 2-and-a-half in Breaston, there's just a bunch of number three options.
The Cardinals' defense has been pretty average the past few years, but the explosive offense made that a moot point. With the big changes on offense in 2010, the defense might have to step it up a notch - though there have been changes on that side of the ball as well. (Most notably with a New York connection, Antrel Rolle is out at safety, now playing with the Giants, and Kerry Rhodes, the former Jet who found himself in Rex Ryan's doghouse, is in. And I'm not sure that's a step up, though Rhodes has something to prove.)
Jets fans, you're forgiven if you're a little confused when the Cardinals' special teams are on the field. Yes, that's former Jet Jay Feely kicking the ball...and the former Jet and Australian import Ben Graham handling punting duties. And yes, that's former Jets first-round draft pick Justin Miller returning kicks. (While we're at it - you should know that former Jets tight end Anthony Becht is still hanging around
. This will be his second year in Arizona.)
The NFC West is a division that can be had. A couple of bounces the Cardinals' way could get them back into the post-season. But I'm picking them to finish second.
2010 Prediction: 7-9, 2nd place in NFC West