|NFL preseason starts with heated Bears QB battle|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 06 August 2008 11:21|
The Chicago Bears simply named Kyle Orton the starter for the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. Finding a winner in his derby with Rex Grossman will take more time, though.
``In a perfect world, before the regular season starts,'' coach Lovie Smith said.
Of course, the Bears' world is far from perfect at the moment after a 7-9 season. The same goes for the Chiefs, who went 4-12 last year and, like Chicago, have some issues at quarterback.
Starter Brodie Croyle is unproven and the rotation isn't set. Tyler Thigpen and Damon Huard are behind him for now, although coach Herm Edwards hinted the mix could change by the season opener.
``Things happen,'' he said, adding: ``Right now, they're our quarterbacks.''
In other games Thursday, it's the New York Giants at Detroit, Baltimore at New England, the New York Jets at Cleveland and New Orleans at Arizona.
On Friday, it's Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Seattle at Minnesota and San Francisco at Oakland.
Saturday's slate is Buffalo at Washington, Atlanta at Jacksonville, Indianapolis at Carolina, Tampa Bay at Miami, Denver at Houston, St. Louis at Tennessee and Dallas at San Diego.
On Monday, Cincinnati is at Green Bay.
A year ago, the Bears seemed poised to make another run for the Super Bowl. Instead, injuries and sloppy play on both sides of the ball wrecked their season. While a healthy defense could rank again among the league's best, there are questions all over the offense.
The most pressing is who will start the season under center. On Thursday, it'll be Orton and then Grossman. But Smith cautioned not to read too much into that. He said they'll see equal time with the first string and that the starters will be in longer than usual. He also said they'll split time when the Bears visit Seattle on Aug. 16, with Grossman getting the start.
``You want to play your best and put your best foot forward in these two preseason games, or three, however many, I don't know yet when the final verdict comes in,'' Grossman said. ``But it's not that much different than any other time because I always want to play my best. But I know that there's a lot on the line.''
When training camp opened, the Bears flipped a coin to determine who would practice with the starters on the first day. Grossman won, Orton got his chance the next day and they've been alternating since.
``There's plenty of teams that have quarterback issues going and guys competing for the position,'' Orton said. ``It's not like we're the only team or it's the first time it happened. It's certainly happened in the past and the guys can get through it and play well.''
While he has shown some promising flashes, Grossman has been maddeningly erratic during his five seasons and couldn't make it out of last September with the starting job.
Orton was 10-5 as a starter as a rookie in 2005 after Grossman got hurt, although his main job was to hand the ball to Thomas Jones and not turn it over. Last year, he was 43-of-80 with 478 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions over the final three games - not exactly inspiring numbers.
``We know one thing,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ``The first couple preseason games at least they're both going to have an opportunity to show what they can do, get equal reps and all that stuff.''
Hundreds of rookies will debut this weekend, but none will be on the spot like Ray Rice. The former Rutgers running back will start for the Ravens against the defending AFC champion Patriots, who's last game was the loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl that prevented their undefeated season.
Still, new Ravens coach John Harbaugh thinks Rice has a chance to make a splashy debut after a college career that included 910 carries and a lot of highlight-reel runs during the Scarlet Knights' resurgence.
``He's a rookie, but gosh he's had a lot of carries his whole career. As a running back, he's a veteran,'' Harbaugh said. ``It will be new for him playing against an NFL defense, particularly that defense. It will be interesting to see how he'll do, but I would be surprised if he's not up to it.''
Also on Thursday the Giants open defense of their Super Bowl title, but without several key players who figured in the 17-14 win over the Patriots.
Just who Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning will throw to in his short stint remains to be seen. Plaxico Burress, who caught the winning touchdown, is out with an ankle injury. David Tyree, who's fingertip grab kept the winning drive alive, is on the physically unable to perform list after knee surgery.
Amani Toomer will play but could be limited after missing practice Tuesday with swelling in his knee.
On Monday night, the Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay appears set to start against Cincinnati, though the Brett Favre saga continues.
Rodgers will get the start against the Bengals and Favre is unlikely to appear at Lambeau Field, even if he remains on the team's roster that long.