Green Bay Packers
The start of season No. 2 for Rodgers as a starter will be a lot less burdensome than a year ago, when he still had to look over his shoulder for the possibility of a return by Brett Favre out of retirement before the Packers ended an acrimonious start to training camp by trading their legend to the New York Jets. Rodgers comes back this year with a lot of confidence after he exceeded the expectations of many in leading a top-10 offense. He put up big numbers with more than 4,000 passing yards and 28 touchdowns and limited mistakes by completing 63.6 percent of his passes with just 13 interceptions. Rodgers has the physical tools and acumen to be as productive, if not more, this season. Perhaps the only knock on him is not having the Favre-esque track record of pulling out wins late in games — the Packers were 0-7 in games decided by four or fewer points last season. The pecking order on the depth chart remains the same, unless Brohm does a complete 180 in the preseason with his accuracy and numbers to wrest the No. 2 job that he frittered away as a second-round draft pick last year. Flynn, a seventh-round choice in 2008, makes up for an adequate arm with headiness and leadership.
Cutler gives the Bears something they haven't had in ... a very long time. He is already a Pro Bowler, something foreign to a franchise that has produced exactly one Pro Bowl appearance by a quarterback in the previous 44 years. Cutler has more than enough arm to throw any pass in the playbook, is mobile enough to escape the rush and buy time in the pocket, and he's just 26. But there are questions about his leadership, maturity and character after a messy situation that resulted in his trade from Denver. So far, Cutler has been a model teammate, although there are some concerns about his reputation as a party guy. Hanie impressed the Bears with his mobility and athleticism last preseason and has had a full year in the system, but he has yet to prove that he can get the job done as a starter. Basanez spent two seasons as a little-used backup with the Panthers, and he lacks size and a strong arm, but he put up some prodigious numbers as a four-year starter at Northwestern.
Culpepper is expected to enter camp as the starter, but Stafford could make a strong push as the preseason wears on. Culpepper should be much better than he was when he came out of semiretirement and joined the Lions
midseason last year. He has lost more than 30 pounds. He knows the offense, which is run by his old offensive coordinator from Minnesota, Scott Linehan. He has every motivation to earn another contract. But Stafford was impressive after joining the offseason program. Not only were his physical skills as advertised, with his strong arm apparent, but he showed a quick grasp of the offense. Stanton is clearly in the No. 3 spot and needs to show he still belongs there.
This grouping was the expectation in February when the Vikings acquired Rosenfels from Houston for a fourth-round pick. However, that all changed when the New York Jets released Brett Favre from their reserve/retired list in late April. Jackson is entering the final season of his contract and has had an up-and-down stint in Minnesota since being a second-round pick out of Alabama State in 2006. Jackson began last season as the starter, was benched after two losses but then won the job back late in the year after Gus Frerotte suffered a back injury. Jackson was horrible in the season opener at Green Bay, completing 16-of-35 passes for 178 yards and a fourth-quarter interception. Rosenfels was careful and used measured words since the Favre talk began this spring, and there is little doubt he would have been extremely disappointed to not get a chance to win the job. In fact, this is going to be the first time in his nine-year that he got a legitimate shot to compete for the starting spot. It is important to remember that Brad Childress' two-year pursuit of Rosenfels was due in large part to his belief that the former Houston Texans QB would be an ideal fit in the Vikings' offense and would push incumbent starter Jackson to be at his very best if he wants to keep the job he believes is his.