Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Back in Black

I'm not going to lie. I've hardly glanced at Raider Take for a few weeks. Call it my annual offseason burnout, because it seems to happen to me every spring. Also, this year, I was increasingly turned off by the petty vitriol in the comments section. I haven't looked at the comments lately, I hope things have changed.

Anyhow, if I'm going to come back, I might as well come on strong, so I'm going to suggest that Matt Leinart is the key to our entire season. If that sounds ridiculous, consider that Kyle Boller hardly played last year yet his mere presence had a major impact on the future of the team for years to come.

By going into the season with Boller as the backup, we were knowingly playing with fire, and we got burned. A promising season suddenly turned into a potential grease fire after Jason Campbell got hurt. So we quickly gave up several draft picks in order to acquire a fire extinguisher, also known as Carson Palmer. The guy who drove that deal (Hue Jackson) is no longer here, but the ramifications remain and will shape our future for at least a few seasons to come, for better or worse, depending on how Palmer performs.

Now comes Leinart, much maligned but still perhaps holding some latent promise. What are the odds of Palmer going down for some games this year? I would say the odds are pretty high. And as far as insurance plans go, I think Leinart is a big upgrade over Kyle Boller. At some point during the season, our playoff fortunes could literally rest on Leinart's shoulders.

Leinart also provides a nice bridge between Palmer and Terrelle Pryor, who apparently is looking poised and primed in practice. Hopefully he has learned a few things from his various career missteps and, along with Palmer, can be a positive tutor (in life as well as football) to Pryor.

The bottom line is that this is a quarterback-driven league, and we're heading into the 2012 season with a much stronger roster at the quarterback position. In other words, we're trending upward at the most important position, hopefully just in time to slow down the Manning Express in Denver and finally take the AFC West.