NFC North: Brooks Bollinger
You're on the right track if the name "Tyler Thigpen" rings a bell. The quarterback expected to start Thursday night against the Chicago Bears was a seventh-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2007. (It always goes back to the Vikings, doesn't it?)
The Vikings liked Thigpen and wanted to develop him as a long-term project. But they weren't willing to create a roster spot to do it, and instead tried to slip him through waivers and place him on the practice squad. (The backup quarterbacks they kept instead, Brooks Bollinger and Kelly Holcomb, are long gone.) The Kansas City Chiefs claimed Thigpen largely because he impressed them during a joint training camp practice, and he had an impressive stretch of 11 starts during the 2008 season. The Chiefs traded him to the Miami Dolphins in 2009.
Jeff Darlington of the Miami Herald chronicles Thigpen's journey. Bears fans might be rejoicing in facing the Dolphins' No. 3 quarterback, but rest assured he has more experience and skill than the players that fill that job for many teams.
- Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asks whether the Green Bay Packers will get any help from their new running back depth.
- Once and current Packers tight end/linebacker Spencer Havner didn't burn any bridges after being waived this summer, notes Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- The Detroit Lions' run blocking has been suspect this season, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
- On Sunday, the Lions will face ex-teammates Jon Kitna and Roy Williams, who now play for the Dallas Cowboys. Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press has more.
- The Lions have the worst record in NFL history for any team that has outscored its opponents at this point in the season, Michael David Smith writes in the Wall Street Journal.
- The short week left the Bears practicing on Tuesday. All players participated on at least a limited basis and should be available for Thursday night's game against Miami, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
- Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is using his mobility to his advantage lately, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
- The Bears' offense is improving, according to Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- The Star Tribune considers the possibility that Minnesota Vikings receiver Sidney Rice will opt out of playing at all this season because of a hip injury and concerns about how his value could be impacted on the free-agent market.
- Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf needs to hire a "football czar" to straighten out his team.
- The Pioneer Press: "Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams today will ask the Minnesota Court of Appeals to permanently block the NFL from suspending them four games because the league violated state drug-testing laws when it tried to punish them in 2008."
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
The word is official from out in Buffalo: Detroit quarterback Daunte Culpepper (toe) won’t play Thursday night against the Bills. The news was expected, but the Lions hadn’t been willing to rule him out before now.
As we’ve discussed this week, Culpepper’s injury puts rookie Matthew Stafford in the driver’s seat to win the starting job. A strong performance against the Bills might lock it up. What would happen if Stafford stinks up the joint Thursday night? Well, then you would have to start wondering how serious Culpepper’s injury is. (The Lions said he had an accident at home Saturday night that required eight stitches.)
Stafford has shown flashes of brilliance mixed with rookie mistakes during the preseason, but the last thing the Lions want is to be forced to start him because of a lack of options. Their worst-case scenario is Stafford offering a shaky outing Thursday night and Culpepper not being healthy enough to start the Sept. 13 opener at New Orleans.
If that’s the case, Stafford would be the Lions’ only option. Third-string quarterback Drew Stanton had knee surgery this week. The other two quarterbacks on the Lions roster, Brooks Bollinger and Kevin O’Connell, joined the team Tuesday.
So right now, if you’re a Lions fan, you’re hoping Stafford is up to the challenge.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
If you were ever to make an argument for shortening the NFL preseason, this would be the week. Be careful about blinking; you might miss the players you were hoping to watch as teams approach their final game hoping to preserve health above all else.
We’ll truncate our coverage of these games accordingly, but I still want to take a look at the three NFC North matchups set for Thursday evening. (Minnesota will wrap up Friday night against Dallas.)
Detroit at Buffalo (6:30 p.m. ET)
Starters will play… An undetermined amount of time. But coach Jim Schwartz did say that quarterback Matthew Stafford will be on the field for the first 20 or 25 plays.
I’ll be watching… Stafford to see if he can lock down the starting job with a strong performance. It’s possible that Daunte Culpepper will make a surprise return from a toe injury, but otherwise Stafford is in the driver’s seat. Brooks Bollinger and possibly Kevin O’Connell will follow Stafford. … Whether we like it or not, we’ll also get a look at the Lions’ depth at cornerback. Starters Anthony Henry and Philip Buchanon aren’t expected to play. Neither will linebacker Ernie Sims, giving Jordon Dizon another chance to prove himself. … We’ll also get a chance to see whether Daniel Loper can hold off Manny Ramirez in the competition at left guard.
Cleveland at Chicago (8 p.m. ET)
Starters will play… no longer than the first quarter.
I’ll be watching… to see how rusty cornerback Zack Bowman (hamstring) and safety Danieal Manning (hamstring) are. Both will make their preseason debuts and are projected starters if they can make it through this game. … Fans will also want to see veteran Adrian Peterson put the finishing touches on his bid to win a roster spot. It seems Peterson will have to beat out tight end Michael Gaines. … Plenty of people have been watching to see which receivers new quarterback Jay Cutler feels most comfortable with. We know the group includes Greg Olsen, Earl Bennett and Matt Forte. But will his apparent chemistry with Devin Aromashodu help determine the final depth chart at receiver?
Green Bay at Tennessee (8 p.m. ET)
Starters will play… likely one series. Two at the most.
I’ll be watching… to see which tailback lays claim to the No. 2 job behind Ryan Grant. Brandon Jackson is sidelined by an ankle injury. So will DeShawn Wynn grab the job? Rookie Tyrell Sutton? Kregg Lumpkin? … Linebacker Nick Barnett will make his preseason debut. Will his performance be enough to convince coaches to put him in the starting lineup when the regular season begins? … With quarterback Matt Flynn (shoulder) still sidelined, we should get a long look at quarterback Brian Brohm. That might or might not be a good thing, depending on your perspective. You wonder if Brohm will get released if he can’t demonstrate some progress. That would leave the Packers in the market for quarterback depth when teams begin paring down their rosters this weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
Three quick hits on the Detroit Lions:
1. You can never have enough quarterbacks. As of Tuesday morning, the Lions have five on their roster: Matthew Stafford, Daunte Culpepper, Drew Stanton, Brooks Bollinger and Kevin O’Connell. Culpepper (toe) and Stanton (knee) are injured, and the turn of events has left Stafford in the driver’s seat to win the starting job. The glut of bodies is symbolic of a roster that will be in flux throughout the season. Stafford is without question the team’s future, and likely the present. But nothing about the positions behind him are permanent.
2. The Lions weren’t 0-16 last season by accident. Years of poor drafting left them with the thinnest personnel situation in the NFL. There is no easy cleanup to this mess, and new general manager Martin Mayhew seems to have taken a two-pronged approach. He’s filled the gaps with more than a dozen veterans acquired via free agency or trades, hoping they can provide credible performances while he builds young depth behind them. Players such as linebackers Julian Peterson and Larry Foote, cornerbacks Philip Buchanon and Anthony Henry, and defensive tackle Grady Jackson are all short-term gap-fillers for what the Lions hope is a wave of young players who will develop over the next few years.
3. New coach Jim Schwartz hired experienced coordinators on both sides of the ball to help with the development process. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan not only works well with young quarterbacks, but he also knows how to mix a power running game with downfield passing. Linehan will adapt his scheme to the strength of his personnel, once he determines what it is. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, meanwhile, is known for his blitz-oriented schemes and has predicted he will send an extra pass rusher 40 percent of the time this season. That approach will generate excitement and could help cover for personnel weaknesses at certain positions.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
I returned from Houston to find quite a quarterback kerfuffle in Detroit. By the end of the day, the Lions’ quarterback depth chart looked like this:
Here’s the entire lowdown from John Niyo of the Detroit News.
Coach Jim Schwartz hasn’t officially ruled out Culpepper from Thursday’s game, but you would have to think his status is doubtful. From this vantage point, the turn of events gives Stafford a wonderful opportunity to lock down the Lions’ starting job with a strong performance against the Bills. He and Culpepper have run fairly even in their summer-long competition, but sometimes the winner is simply the last man standing.
Stanton, meanwhile, has encountered a significant injury in each of his three NFL seasons. He missed 2007 because of a knee injury; a sprained thumb limited him during the early part of 2008. Schwartz said he didn’t believe the current ailment would sideline him for the long term, but it certainly isn’t what Stanton wanted to add to his resume this year.
For the most part, we'll leave the Brett Favre story in the rear-view mirror unless he or Minnesota starts having second thoughts about the sudden end of their pending marriage. (And we all know that would NEVER happen.) I am still planning to be in Mankato, Minn., later Wednesday, but the focus of the Vikings' story now shifts to how the team rebounds from Favre's decision.
We'll have access to whatever players have reported to camp starting in the early evening. Players technically don't have to be at camp until a mandatory meeting Thursday morning, so we'll get who we get and bring you what we can bring you.
For now, let's get caught up on rest of the division:
- Detroit worked out quarterbacks Cleo Lemon, Craig Nall and Brooks Bollinger on Tuesday but did not immediately sign any of them, according to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press. The Lions have spoken about adding a veteran backup, but this workout could have been to build scouting files on all three in the event they need a passer in the future. The Lions did sign veteran cornerback Will James and announced a deal with seventh-round pick Lydon Murtha.
- John Niyo of the Detroit News offers a look at the Lions' defense by position.
- Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com notes Detroit could have four new starters in the secondary.
- Chicago defensive back Corey Graham is expecting to work with the first team at cornerback in the wake of Charles Tillman's back surgery, writes Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
- Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders how much more Tillman's body can take.
- The Tribune's David Haugh writes the Bears should avoid signing a veteran cornerback along the lines of Mike McKenzie or Patrick Surtain. Haugh: "Charles Tillman's surprising back surgery that will keep him out of training camp might tempt the Bears to explore signing an experienced cornerback to help shore up depth at a suddenly weak position. But just like the unemployed veteran wide receivers that some fans have clamored for the Bears to sign, good reasons generally exist for players to be without a contract this close to the start of a season."
- Green Bay considers safety Atari Bigby a likely starter even though he missed offseason practices recovering from ankle surgery, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel takes a frank look at the attributes and limitations of tailback Ryan Grant.
- Minnesota is close to a deal with second-round draft pick Phil Loadholt, writes Chip Scoggins and Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
For those of you who are interested, here is the full list of the inaugural draft for the United Football League, which starts play in the fall and hopes to serve as something of a incubation league for players who wouldn't have made an NFL team but could provide midseason depth if needed.
A few NFC North-related highlights:
Former Minnesota coach Dennis Green, who now coaches the UFL's San Francisco franchise, selected Marshall receiver Marcus Fitzgerald, who had a tryout earlier this year with the Vikings. Fitzgerald is the younger brother of Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald, whom Green drafted when he was the coach of the Cardinals in 2004. Both Fitzgeralds grew up in the Twin Cities.
Green also drafted running back "Femi" Ayanbadejo, whom he once coached in Minnesota, as well as Harvard quarterback Liam O'Hagan -- a Twin Cities native who is the son of longtime coaching agent Gary O'Hagan.
Orlando drafted former Wisconsin and Minnesota quarterback Brooks Bollinger. It also selected safety Mike Doss, who spent 2007 with the Vikings, and former Vikings tight end Jermaine Wiggins. Former Green Bay defensive tackle Fred Bledsoe was also on Orlando's list.
Las Vegas grabbed safety Adam Archuleta, who played for Chicago in 2007, and former Lions receiver David Kircus.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman on his chances for being 100 percent by training camp after offseason shoulder surgery: ''I think so. I hope so. I keep my fingers crossed.'' Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times has the story.
- Officials from Lewis University in Romeoville are pitching the Bears about moving training camp to their campus, according to Joseph Ruzich of the Chicago Tribune.
- Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford has an endorsement deal with Axe hair products, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
- Missed this personnel development earlier this week: Green Bay linebacker Spencer Havner was practicing as a two-way player during organized team activities last week. Havner was doubling as a tight end, writes Tom Fanning of Packers.com.
- Minnesota defensive end Ray Edwards continued his assault on the idea of a personal locker room for retired quarterback Brett Favre during multiple appearances Thursday on ESPN platforms. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune traces Edwards' progress. Edwards also reiterated his support for incumbent quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
Here's a fun player-personnel fact for you as we await official confirmation of Minnesota's trade for Houston quarterback Sage Rosenfels. Assuming the trade is finalized, the Vikings will have devoted eight draft choices to acquiring six quarterbacks in the three-plus offseasons since Daunte Culpepper blew out his knee in 2005.
Here's the breakdown:
And for those keeping track, this will be the second time Minnesota vice president Rick Spielman has acquired Rosenfels. While with Miami in 2002, Spielman traded a seventh-round pick to Washington for him.
Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte has expressed his disappointment several times in the Vikings' decision to return him to backup status following his recovery from a fracture in his lower back. This week, he took his sentiments a step further by telling Michael Silver of Yahoo.com that he was the Vikings' best option and should have started Sunday's 26-14 loss to Philadelphia.
Here's the relevant quote:
"I just don't know what to think right now. It was a very frustrating experience, because I felt like I should've been the one playing. That might sound selfish, but I think I would've given us the best chance to win. I'm going home to St. Louis [on Monday] to be with my family and figure out where things stand, but the way things played out at the end really makes me question things."
Many people around the Vikings are expecting Frerotte to retire or otherwise effect his departure from the team. He'll join Brad Johnson, Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger as veteran quarterbacks who have left the team -- either by their choice or the Vikings' -- after being acquired by coach Brad Childress over the past three years.
Continuing around the NFC North on this fine Tuesday:
- Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will interview for Denver's head coaching job on Wednesday, reports my colleague Bill Williamson of ESPN.com. Frazier also is expected to visit with Detroit officials this week.
- Miami assistant head coach Todd Bowles is "very interested" in the Lions job, Bowles told David Birkett of the Oakland Press.
- Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette suggests the Packers will change their entire defensive scheme this offseason following the departure of most defensive coaches Monday.
- The Packers have never experienced this level of staff upheaval from a sitting head coach, reports Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Former San Francisco coach Mike Nolan might be the leading candidate to replace fired defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, writes Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel.
- The Bears have offered their defensive line job to former Lions coach Rod Marinelli, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
- David Haugh of the Tribune suggests Arizona's Kurt Warner as the Bears' next quarterback. Warner is a pending free agent.
Despairing in Minnesota about the Vikings' long-term quarterback situation? Then you might not want to read this post from ESPN.com's Bill Williamson, my AFC West colleague. (Actually, you should. Reading is learning).
Bill chronicled the eye-opening day of Kansas City quarterback Tyler Thigpen, a former Vikings draft pick who completed 25 of 36 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-24 loss Sunday to the New York Jets. It's way too early to draw any conclusions, but at minimum Thigpen gave the Chiefs something to think about as they mull signing veteran Daunte Culpepper after losing Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard to injuries.
It's difficult to project a player's long-term prospects off one game, and Thigpen has struggled in other appearances over the past two seasons. But rest assured, no passing performance in the Vikings' recent history has matched even the mild optimism Thigpen generated Sunday.
The Vikings were among a handful of teams who uncovered Thigpen at Coastal Carolina prior to the 2007 draft. They initially planned to sign him to a free-agent contract but ultimately used a seventh-round pick to ensure they got him onto the roster.
Thigpen proved to be a quarterback worth developing during training camp, and he seemed destined to be the Vikings' No. 3 quarterback in 2007. But when No. 2 quarterback Brooks Bollinger struggled, the Vikings acquired Kelly Holcomb to provide backup for young starter Tarvaris Jackson.
Rather than release Bollinger, however, the Vikings tried to sneak Thigpen onto the practice squad on final cutdown day. The Chiefs, who had scouted him during a joint training camp practice between the two teams, claimed him on waivers.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said at the time he was "sick" upon losing Thigpen, and for good reason. Jackson flopped early this season, and current starter Gus Frerotte is 37. If the Vikings fall out of the 2008 playoff race, wouldn't it be an ideal time to give a developmental player like Thigpen an opportunity?
Alas, the Vikings won't have that chance. And for what? Holcomb was released in March and Bollinger lost a competition with rookie John David Booty during this summer's training camp. Jackson, meanwhile, has a murky future at best. Who will be the Vikings' 2009 quarterback? In all likelihood, he's not on the roster today.
Consider it this way: The Vikings haven't had a quarterback throw for at least 280 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in four seasons. Yep, it's been since Culpepper threw for 280 yards and two scores on Oct. 23, 2005. Hope has been fleeting ever since.
|Tom Dahlin/Getty Images|
|Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has struggled in the Vikings' first two games this season.|
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- During his three years in Minnesota, I have seen coach Brad Childress stand at a podium and defiantly explain his stance on a key issue. I've watched him sneer at some questions and wax poetically on others. He's expressed sympathy, anger, humor and intelligence.
Wednesday, I saw something new: Uncertainty.
As he announced the decision to bench quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, Childress hardly seemed the confident offensive guru that the Vikings eagerly hired in January 2006. Instead, Childress seemed shaken to his core on the day when he admitted the quarterback he has groomed and built his program around had failed.
Childress suggested that part of Jackson's struggles "may" be related to a lack of experience and said: "I know Gus will give us that."
That's hardly an enthusiastic endorsement for a quarterback who was just entrusted with the final 14 games of the season. But it's the best Childress could muster after making the most complex -- and clearly the most wrenching -- decision of his career.
Let's be clear: Childress had no choice after watching Jackson struggle through the season's first two games. But in turning to Frerotte, Childress knows he is indicting his own reputation. A head coach should never give his owner a reason to doubt him, but today the Vikings' Zygi Wilf has to be wondering about Childress' purported strength in developing quarterbacks.
Childress was closely associated with the maturation of Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and in Minnesota has demonstrated some hubristic tendencies at the position.
He never connected with incumbent Daunte Culpepper and willingly cast aside a player who had an MVP-like season in 2004. A month later, Childress signed off on drafting Jackson out of Division I-AA Alabama State, referring to him as a "piece of clay" who only needed some professional coaching in order to become the Vikings' long-term starter.
As he worked with Jackson, Childress benched veteran Brad Johnson and ran through a carousel of short-term backups. Childress' designated No. 2 quarterback flopped in each of his first two training camps, forcing the Vikings to give up draft picks to acquire Brooks Bollinger in 2006 and Kelly Holcomb in 2007 for emergency depth.
And it took only incremental improvement -- from terrible to better -- in 2007 for Childress to commit to Jackson this season, an especially weighty decision given Wilf's eight-figure investment in the free-agent market. Most owners won't spend $60 million in guaranteed money for a team that is still developing its quarterback. The understanding was that Jackson was ready, even though he had never showed it on the field.
If anything, Jackson actually has looked worse in the season's first two games than he did at the end of 2007. His mechanics were flawed, his passes inaccurate and he couldn't explain why he wasn't sliding at the end of his runs. In short, he played like a rookie after three years in the Vikings' offensive system.
It's like Childress put 51 cards in Jackson's hat, saving only one in case of emergency. And now he has played that card -- one that's hardly an ace -- in the middle of September. At a time when Childress believed the Vikings would be reaping the benefits of his essential skill, they instead are reeling because of his hubris.
View the Vikings' official list of cuts here, where you can also access their 53-man roster as it stands now.
Biggest surprise: There were no shockers among the releases. Probably the biggest surprise was the release of receiver Martin Nance, who had a productive preseason. Ultimately, however, it was going to be hard for him to beat out Aundrae Allison or Robert Ferguson. Otherwise, there were some mild surprises among the players the Vikings kept - at least for now. Tight end Garrett Mills was a summer disappointment because of a leg injury but he remains one of four tight ends on the roster. The other surprise was safety Michael Boulware going on injured reserve. Boulware played in the preseason finale Thursday at Dallas and was not a part of the post-game injury report.
No-brainers: Quarterback Brooks Bollinger was destined to be a roster casualty as soon as the Vikings drafted John David Booty in the fifth round. Booty didn't have an impressive summer, but he would have had to fall on his face for the Vikings to keep Bollinger another year. Meanwhile, linebacker Rufus Alexander wasn't the same this summer as he attempted to return from major knee surgery.
What's next: Several young players made the final 53-man roster but could ultimately become practice squad material. By making them part of their initial roster, the Vikings will avoid exposing them to the first round of waivers. That list includes linebackers David Herron and Erin Henderson, as well as cornerback Husain Abdullah. They could be the first to go if the Vikings sign any veterans or make any waiver claims this weekend.
The Star Tribune reports rookie quarterback John David Booty has emerged as the winner of the Minnesota Vikings' competition for the No. 3 quarterback position. It stands to reason that Brooks Bollinger will be among those the team releases Saturday, but that has not yet been confirmed.
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.
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.
The good news? The Chicago Bears avoided a winless preseason Thursday night, slipping past the Cleveland Browns 16-10.
The rest of the news? Legitimate concern has surfaced about the Bears defense, which gave up two scoring drives to a watered-down Browns offense despite having the majority of its own starters on the field. Defensive tackles Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek sat out along with safety Mike Brown, but the rest of the Bears' starters allowed 123 yards on 21 plays to the Browns, who were without quarterback Derek Anderson, running back Jamal Lewis and receiver Braylon Edwards.
There weren't a lot of "Oh, it's just preseason" quotes afterward. Cornerback Charles Tillman called the situation "a mess" and said: "If I had an answer I'd tell you right now."
Coach Lovie Smith acknowledged his disappointment and wouldn't use the typically generic defensive schemes of preseason as an excuse:
''We've been vanilla the entire preseason. We are not going to use that as a reason for not playing as well as we need to. We're not going to go down that road. Yeah, we'll have a lot more stuff in [when we play the Indianapolis Colts], but that's the base stuff we do and you need to be sound fundamentally with your base stuff.''
The Bears' No. 1 defense gave up a score on seven of its final nine drives of the preseason. One of the two non-scoring drives ended in a blocked field goal. They haven't panicked yet, but changes already were under way Thursday night. Kevin Payne has leapfrogged Brandon McGowan as the starting strong safety, and defensive coordinator Bob Babich called the game from the sideline rather than his usual perch in the press box.
Chicago plays the Colts a week from Sunday. You think Peyton Manning has incentive to hurry back onto the field?
Elsewhere around the NFC North:
- Bears third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie completed 12 of 17 passes for 115 yards and one interception, but it's not clear whether the Bears will keep him on their 53-man roster or attempt to sneak him onto their practice squad.
- Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress was livid after his team's sloppy 16-10 loss at Dallas. To be fair, his entire starting lineup, as well as backup quarterback Gus Frerotte, sat out. But, Childress said: "I hate to lose and I like putting my best foot forward. So when we pick the 53 guys on the team, we're going to pick 53 winners. That's what we're going to do."
- Some of Childress' anger was directed at quarterbacks John David Booty and Brooks Bollinger. Booty threw an interception on his first pass, while Bollinger completed only six of 18 passes. Both are competing for the Vikings' No. 3 job. "They were both average," Childress said. "Average is about the worst thing you can say about somebody. Average."
- Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant finished the preseason without a carry. He played only one down Thursday night in his preseason debut; the Packers starting offense scored on its first and only play. "We just felt like the risk-reward wasn't worth it," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin told the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Neither of the Packers' backup quarterbacks, Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn, had a good night Thursday against Tennessee. It leaves the team in a predicament with final cuts coming this weekend. There will certainly be a veteran quarterback or two available.
- Packers long-snapper J.J. Jansen suffered what might be a serious left knee injury.
- The Detroit Lions were the only team to finish the preseason 4-0. What does it mean? "Nothing," coach Rod Marinelli said.
- Lions safety Daniel Bullocks got his first game action after recovering from a knee injury suffered last season.