Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner expected to win starting job

     by Ryan R. Bonini on August 24, 2008 @ 08:33:49 PDT

 


Chris Mortensen, of ESPN.com, reports Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner is expected to be named the team's starting quarterback, according to a team source. Quarterback Matt Leinart's poor performance Saturday, Aug. 23, probably sealed the decision. The source said Leinart's performance in training camp has been uneven, and the team has concerns about his arm strength and accuracy.

This comes a day following Leinart going 4-for-12 for 24 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions during less than two quarters of action. It is slightly a surprise, as head coach Ken Whisenhunt said following the game that Leinart's shaky performance would not change his pecking order amongst the team's starters. Our sources in Arizona had said previously it was Leinart's job to lose. Well, apparently, his preseason play has cost him that role.

In two preseason games this year, Warner has hit eight of 13 passes for 94 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He has been sacked twice. Leinart, in three preseason games, has hit 18 of 31 attempts for 177 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He, too, has been sacked twice.

Warner, 37, has shown some solid control of the Cardinals' offense in recent years. He has started 16 games over the last two years. On a per-game basis, he has averaged 240 yards passing, 1.7 passing touchdowns and a 63 percent completion rate. He has not been without fault, as he has averaged 1.1 interceptions thrown and 0.5 lost fumbles per game.

Durability is also a big question with Warner. The Cardinals' line still has a way to go before it will be considered solid, and the running game, led by aging running back Edgerrin James, needs to prove it can keep defenses honest. If those two things are not in place, Warner could be a sitting duck. He is not mobile and can be plastered into the turf by defenders. Taking sacks at his age with his previous injury history does not bode well for longevity in the lineup.

Fantasy football participants need to approach this one with caution. Warner has more than enough options in wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin to play catch with all day long; he is not afraid to put the ball down field or take chances. Those items alone can lead to some solid fantasy football statistical games. He can put up starting caliber fantasy football production and then some:

  • Last year, he passed for more than 250 yards seven times in his 14 games played (he only started 11 games)
  • He threw for at least two touchdowns in 10 games, including each of his last eight
  • He had five games of at least three touchdown passes thrown

During the month of December, Warner was nothing short of amazing:

  • During that span he threw the most touchdown passes in the league (14)
  • He had the second-most yardage in the league (1,408 yards passing)
  • In KFFL's standard fantasy football scoring, he was the No. 1 fantasy quarterback from Weeks 13 to 17

The point is, Warner can still play, and this offense allows him to post some special production.

The big question is: How long will he remain healthy? At what point does the team look to get Leinart involved again? He is, after all, the more logical long-term option. We have seen the Cardinals are not afraid to go quarterback by committee while Leinart was starting. Is that definitely going to come to an end with Warner at the helm? It would appear so, but the Cardinals did invest a first-round draft choice in Leinart, and he is far too young to give up on now.

During your fantasy football league draft, ideally take Warner as your backup fantasy quarterback but, provided your league is deep enough, also consider handcuffing Leinart to him during the final stanza of your draft. Unless we are in deeper leagues, we typically do not recommend running with three quarterbacks on roster, but this situation is somewhat different and dictates the maneuver. Unless you have Warner or are in a total dynasty league, Leinart should not be drafted on his own merit.

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About Ryan R. Bonini

Founding KFFL in 1996, Bonini now serves as VP of Fantasy Sports Solutions for USA TODAY SPORTS, KFFL's parent company. Bonini was named 2009 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the FSWA, received honors with the Best Fantasy Football Series in '10 and was named into their Hall of Fame in '13.

His work has been found in USA TODAY Sports, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NFL.com, and many others. He has also been featured on numerous radio programs around the country. Bonini is a member of the PFWA, FSWA and FSTA.

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