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The Line Is Drawn For QBs

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Quarterback Matt Leinart (7) and the offensive line -- including new starting center Lyle Sendlein (63) should get 15 to 20 plays of work against the Saints.

FLAGSTAFF – The focus for the Cardinals' preseason opener Thursday night will be the quarterbacks, no shock given the attention heaped on Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner all offseason.

It's the offensive line that is inevitably linked to Leinart and Warner. And it's the offensive line that will help dictate how the quarterback battle plays out.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt wants both quarterbacks to have a chance to play with the first-unit offensive line. Multiple factors will determine how that breaks down.

"We all are aware we may have to be out there a little longer than normal

When: Thursday, 5 p.m.
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium
TV: ESPN or Ch. 3 (KTVK) 
Radio: KTAR 92.3 FM (pregame at 2 p.m.)

because of the quarterback situation," starting left guard Reggie Wells said.

Whisenhunt did say he may have wanted the line to have a longer stint anyway, to see how backup center Lyle Sendlein – starting because of Al Johnson's knee surgery – is fitting with the group.

With the multiple injuries to backup linemen, however, there is also a risk playing one of the top two quarterbacks behind the makeshift second unit. Right now, two of the five backups – left tackle Kelly Butler and center Pat Ross – weren't even with the team a week ago. Right guard Brandon Keith is a rookie seventh-round pick who has played mostly tackle since coming to the Cards.

"You want (both quarterbacks) healthy going into the season," Warner said. "You don't want this (QB competition) dictated by any kind of injury, especially after what we went through last year.

"I think the coaching staff knows what they have with me. I am sure Matt will play more in the preseason than I will, and I have no problem with that."

Indeed, Whisenhunt said Wednesday there is a chance Warner won't even play against the Saints. The plan is for the starters to play 15 to 20 plays depending on the flow of the game, Whisenhunt said, and because Leinart hasn't played since the fifth game of 2007, the Cards may want him to get extra work.

"Matt has done so well in camp and made progress," Whisenhunt said, "and I want to see that in a game."

Warner said that in many ways, if he is only going to play a brief series, he'd almost rather not play at all.

"You play, the juices get flowing and you play and you want to just go," Warner said.

Warner understands the catch-22 situation of both Leinart's spot and his own. The veteran never felt there was much he could prove in preseason anyway.

Leinart said he won't lobby for extra playing time. He too understands the balance of working in the entire roster as well as keeping key players away from injury.

"They want to take care of everyone, but I feel so much more comfortable," Leinart said. "This position is a lot about confidence."

The quarterbacks and the line aren't the only areas where Whisenhunt will watch. The various young receivers vying for playing time – the coach specifically mentioned Steve Breaston, Jamaica Rector, Jerheme Urban and Lance Long – are also on the radar.

So too is running back Tim Hightower, the team's rookie defensive linemen, and veterans who are returning from injury, like Chike Okeafor, Bertrand Berry and Adrian Wilson.

Whisenhunt acknowledged the game will probably turn a little sloppy later on, when the younger players who can draw mental blanks under the spotlight of a huge crowd (and in this case, a national TV audience on ESPN) will make some mistakes.

Then again, Whisenhunt added, that too is part of the process.

"Training camp is all about experimenting with new plays and new ideas," Whisenhunt said. "We are always trying to learn and get better."

EXTRA POINTS: Out for the game are receiver Anquan Boldin (hamstring), receiver Early Doucet (hamstring), nose tackle Gabe Watson (knee-PUP list) and linebacker Monty Beisel (back-PUP list). The status of cornerback Rod Hood, who is nursing a sore foot, has not yet been determined.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 8/6/08.

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