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Opportunity as Texans' backup knocks for Leinart

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Posted Sept. 10, 2010 @ 9:47 a.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Matt Leinart began the preseason as the Cardinals' starting quarterback and ended it no longer in team's plans.

In Houston, he'll push Dan Orlovsky for the top reserve role behind starter Matt Schaub. Orlovsky, who signed a three-year contract to be Schaub's backup last year, showed improvement in the preseason after disappointing in the '09 preseason and losing the No. 2 QB role to Rex Grossman. According to The Houston Chronicle, Orlovsky had his salary reduced from $2.25 million to $850,000, with weekly incentives to be paid if he's the No. 2 quarterback or the starter. Leinart is slated to make $630,000, per the Chronicle, with weekly incentives for being the No. 2 passer potentially pushing the deal to $1 million.

Leinart, 27, began his Arizona career in promising fashion. He started 11 games in 2006, throwing for 2,547 yards with 11 TDs and 12 interceptions, and there was sentiment he could become a star. But he suffered a broken collarbone in his fifth start in '07, lost his job to Kurt Warner the following season and never got his career back on track in Arizona. This summer, he lost his starting job to ex-Browns QB Derek Anderson.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an evaluator familiar with Leinart and the Cardinals' and Texans' schemes told PFW that the former Heisman Trophy winner was likely to be a better fit in Houston's offense than in Arizona's. Leinart does not have a strong arm, and the Texans' offense emphasizes shorter, high-percentage throws. The passing game also features rollouts and bootlegs, which can lead to quicker reads for the quarterback, the evaluator said. How quickly Leinart can pick up the Texans' offense remains to be seen; the evaluator suggested Leinart learning the offense and appearing as Houston's top backup in the first 2-3 weeks might be a stretch, considering he has a lot to learn.

The Leinart signing makes sense for Houston on a couple of levels. For one, Schaub missed five games in both the 2007 and '08 seasons, and Orlovsky — who threw two picks in Houston's final preseason game — remains a work in progress. So does Leinart, of course, but he is a former first-round pick, and head coach Gary Kubiak is a noted tutor of quarterbacks.


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