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Friday, August 29, 2008
Quarterback depth a weekend focus

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

As we head into final-cut weekend, quarterback depth remains an issue for each team in the NFC North. We know who will open the season as the starter: Kyle Orton in Chicago, Jon Kitna in Detroit, Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and Tarvaris Jackson in Minnesota. Nevertheless, a few backup situations could change in the next few days.

Let's take a look at each team's situation:

Chicago Bears: Orton will start and it's pretty likely Rex Grossman will back him up. The big question among Bears fans is what will happen to undrafted rookie Caleb Hanie, who showed promise during the preseason, and most important, doesn't have "Orton" or "Grossman" in his name.

For roster flexibility, the Bears could be tempted to keep only two quarterbacks. In that scenario, they would waive Hanie for the purposes of putting him on the practice squad. (They would probably do the same thing if a veteran they want to add -- Josh McCown? Chris Simms? -- becomes available over the weekend.) The risk is that another team could claim Hanie on waivers, an endgame that would enrage Bears fans but wouldn't exactly impact the outcome of the season.


Detroit Lions: Dan Orlovsky won the No. 2 job by default after Drew Stanton sprained a ligament in his right thumb. Stanton will be unavailable for the first month of the season, and the Lions will have to determine whether to keep open his roster spot or place him on injured reserve.

It's likely they'll hold a spot for him, but then coach Rod Marinelli will have to decide whether to play that first month with two healthy quarterbacks or whether they should keep Drew Henson around. It's believed Henson still has practice squad eligibility.


Green Bay Packers: Rookie backups Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn played like, well, rookies for most of the preseason, posing a significant risk for a team with playoff aspirations if Rodgers were sidelined. Coach Mike McCarthy wouldn't rule out the possibility of signing a veteran backup this weekend -- Daunte Culpepper is one possibility -- but it would be difficult to imagine anyone getting up to speed in time for the Sept. 8 opener against Minnesota.

Regardless of whether they bring in a veteran, the Packers have to determine how Brohm and Flynn stack up against each other on the depth chart. Brohm was a second-round draft pick, which would seem to give him the edge, but those who have watched the Packers closely consider it a toss-up from a competitive standpoint.


Minnesota Vikings: Jackson and Frerotte are set as the top two quarterbacks, but coach Brad Childress seemed hugely disappointed in both Brooks Bollinger and John David Booty after Thursday night's preseason finale at Dallas. Normally, the No. 3 quarterback isn't considered the highest of priority decisions. Keep in mind, however, that in each of the past two years, the person who opened the year as the Vikings' No. 3 quarterback has gotten on the field in a meaningful way.

(Overall, the Vikings have had four different starters in the past 32 games: Jackson, Bollinger, Brad Johnson and Kelly Holcomb.)

You would think Booty has the upper hand in this competition; the Vikings traded up in the fifth round of the draft to get him, but it wouldn't be out of the question for both players to be released if a more intriguing developmental quarterback becomes available this weekend.