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Ranking each team's No. 2 QBs
It's that dangerous time of the summer for NFL starting quarterbacks. With the regular season less than 10 days away, keeping or getting your No. 1 QB healthy becomes every team's most vital objective. All else pales by comparison.
So far, no team has experienced a potential season-changing injury at quarterback, but with Minnesota's Tarvaris Jackson (knee), Cleveland's Derek Anderson (concussion), New England's Tom Brady (foot), Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck (back), Indy's Peyton Manning (knee) and Buffalo's Trent Edwards (quad) showing up on injury reports in recent weeks, the state of each team's backup quarterback situation again becomes grist for debate and evaluation.
With that in mind, here's our up-to-the-minute ranking of all 32 teams' No. 2's. It's a list that requires some projection, because in a few cases situations remain fluid, with backup or starting competitions extending into the final week of the preseason. The bottom line standard for a quality No. 2 remains quite simple. Can you win with him on the field?
Here's my list. As always, your results may differ:
1. Washington: Todd Collins -- The unspoken truth in D.C. is that the veteran would run Jim Zorn's offense better today than starter Jason Campbell, who I still think might struggle in his transition to the West Coast style attack. It was Collins, not Campbell, who orchestrated the Redskins' four-game late season winning streak and wild-card playoff berth last year.
2. Tampa Bay: Brian Griese -- Put Griese in another offense and he'd take a tumble down the list. But he's a perfect intellectual match for Jon Gruden's complicated attack, and except for Jeff Garcia's edge in mobility, the Bucs don't miss a beat with the experienced Griese in the game.
3. Houston: Sage Rosenfels -- He may not be a guy who can play at a high level for more than four or five games in a row, but let's not forget that Rosenfels went 4-1 as a starter for the Texans last year, with a four-touchdown relief performance in a loss to Tennessee. Houston starter Matt Schaub, by comparison, was 4-7.
4. San Diego: Billy Volek -- When a team can insert its backup into a road playoff game and have him mount a fourth-quarter comeback for the win -- in the Colts' raucous RCA Dome no less -- that's all you could ever ask of a No. 2. How much is that worth?
5. Tennessee: Kerry Collins -- With starter Vince Young struggling in his transition to Mike Heimerdinger's offense this preseason, Collins is the most efficient quarterback on the Titans roster at the moment. Backups with Super Bowl starts on their resumes aren't a dime a dozen.
6. Seattle: Seneca Wallace -- This is probably higher than most would have Wallace, but I'm fairly sold on the ex-Iowa State star, who threw for three touchdowns a couple weeks back against Minnesota. I know this much: After his preseason showing this year, Charlie Frye isn't beating out Wallace for the Seahawks No. 2 job.
7. St. Louis: Trent Green -- Green's days atop a depth chart are over after his previous two injury-filled seasons in Kansas City and Miami. But he's an experienced hand who, in his second stint with the Rams, provides the St. Louis with a capable replacement in the likely event of Marc Bulger not making it through all 16 games.
8. Cleveland: Brady Quinn -- Quinn didn't get much done the other night in a loss to Detroit, but he's got talent and just needs the playing time to show it. Browns sources tell me he has done everything in his power to prepare well and play well when called upon. For a guy drafted to be the Browns' savior but stuck behind Derek Anderson, that's laudable.
9. Buffalo: J.P. Losman -- The ex-Bills starter isn't thrilled with his task of serving as Trent Edwards' understudy this year, but with the free agency market awaiting next offseason, he has to make the best of it and hope he can resurrect his starting career elsewhere in 2009. Losman did some of his better work last year coming off the bench in relief of Edwards.
10. Chicago: Rex Grossman -- Now that he's officially the Bears backup, Grossman at least jumps to the top third in the league in terms of No. 2's. He's the second quarterback on the list with a Super Bowl start to his credit, and he's a guy who seems to perform better when the expectations are lowered.
11. Dallas: Brad Johnson -- Johnson is the only quarterback on the list who won a Super Bowl as a starter. The Cowboys offense wouldn't be as potent vertically if he were to take over for Tony Romo, but few passers have been more accurate or adept at knowing where to go with the football.
12. Arizona: Matt Leinart -- This isn't the flow chart that the Cardinals had in mind for Leinart's career, but with Kurt Warner clearly out-playing the 2006 first-round pick this preseason, Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt knows what he must do to keep the faith within his locker room. Leinart's inconsistency and inaccuracy are beyond troubling for the Cardinals.
13. Atlanta: Chris Redman -- For a QB who was long gone and forgotten after a three-year NFL hiatus, Redman played pretty darn well for the Falcons in 2007. His re-emergence might have been the only good thing to happen to Atlanta in the Year of Vick. Redman threw 10 touchdown passes and had a 90.4 passer rating in seven games, four of them starts.
14. Miami: Chad Henne -- The Dolphins have the double-Chad attack this season, with Chad Pennington starting and the rookie Henne in reserve. Though he might have to sit and wait his turn all year behind the veteran Pennington, Henne will be the guy in Miami before long.
15. Carolina: Matt Moore -- The Panthers believe they're fine with only the second-year Moore behind Jake Delhomme, and I second that emotion. Moore showed flashes of play-making in his limited action last season, and that made ex-Panthers David Carr and Vinny Testaverde both unnecessary.
16. Minnesota: Gus Frerotte -- Frerotte has been a backup for nine of the past 10 seasons, but he still keeps finding somebody's clipboard to hold. He's in his second go-round with Minnesota, and has worn seven different uniforms. I've always thought of him as the type of quarterback who looks worse the more he plays, but for short stretches, you can still win some games with him.