Derek Anderson will start for the Cardinals at quarterback in Chicago Saturday.
NASHVILLE – Coach Ken Whisenhunt fielded the expected questions Thursday, obviously knowing the firestorm his latest decision would create.
Derek Anderson would be starting at quarterback for the Cardinals in Saturday's preseason game in Chicago. Matt Leinart would be coming off the bench as a backup.
It's part of an overall process, Whisenhunt said. The Cards are looking at other spots, which is why guys like cornerback Greg Toler and rookie inside linebacker Daryl Washington have also been elevated to the first unit this week.
In fact, Whisenhunt said, the Cards are just basically flipping the plan from last week, when Leinart started and Anderson came off the bench. Leinart will get in a two-minute drill, which he hasn't had yet, and he'll start coming out of halftime.
Whisenhunt also knows the speculation it will generate and the further questions about Leinart's immediate future. But it was necessary to ready his team for the regular season.
"I don't think we have performed the way we need to perform on offense in preseason," Whisenhunt said. "We are looking at different players in different spots trying to find a groove. It's not something I am concerned about, but it is a great opportunity to see different combinations."
Whisenhunt will be watching how Leinart reacts. Sometimes, the coach noted, a player will have to come in for a two-minute drill or something of that sort; Whisenhunt wants to test some of those reactions in the preseason before the regular season.
Left unsaid was Leinart's overall reaction to a quarterback change. Whisenhunt has long been a proponent of competition across the roster and he never has differentiated between quarterback or, for example, the cornerback battle between Toler and Trumaine McBride. Players should be able to fight for playing time and if they don't earn it, they don't play.
The quarterback position impacts the whole team, and that too plays a role in watching how Saturday unfolds.
"There is thought put into this," Whisenhunt said. "We are evaluating not only how Matt handles this but how other players handle it."
Anderson, not surprisingly, was low-key.
"I just got some reps with the first team today and I don't know where we'll go from here," Anderson said. "We'll continue to work and get better every day and we will see what happens.
"It's not my first time. It's not my first time. I think the last couple weeks have been pretty good and I just want to keep building on that."
Whisenhunt reiterated a couple of times his issues with the offense weren't all the quarterback's fault. While the third preseason game is usually the one in which the starters get the most work of the entire preseason, Whisenhunt said this out-of-the-ordinary preseason will remain so for the Cards.
Because of that, there is no set playing time scheduled. Just look at the quarterbacks. In a "normal" preseason game, the starting QB would go into the third quarter. That's obviously not happening in Chicago.
"A lot of people see this as a dress-rehearsal game," Whisenhunt said. "We don't look at it that way. There are a still a lot of things we are trying to find out about our team, from a personnel standpoint to schemes, all kinds of aspects."
Whisenhunt also made it clear this was not a permanent change in the depth chart, but regardless, Anderson wasn't going to have a chance to be the starter unless he was given the chance to be the starter.
Now, Anderson has his foot in the door.
"I sense from our fans a little bit of discomfort because we don't have the same guys we have had in there, and I understand that," Whisenhunt said. "But I feel very good about the players we have on this team and knowing we will have the right combination when we start our season."
The question now is which quarterback fits that combination? Anderson or Leinart?
Whisenhunt said he hoped wide receiver Early Doucet (abdomen), who sat out most of practice Thursday, will be able to dress and at least play a few snaps against the Bears. …
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee) donned some shells and a helmet and went through a handful of individual drills. Whisenhunt said the limited work was just that, and that Fitzgerald should have no issues being ready for the regular season.
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