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Updated: August 30th, 2010 2:29pm
No (backup) quarterback controversy: Jackson still ahead of Rosenfels

No (backup) quarterback controversy: Jackson still ahead of Rosenfels

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The numbers suggest the Minnesota Vikings might have a No. 2 quarterback controversy.

In three preseason appearances, top backup Tarvaris Jackson is 10-of-18 passing (55.6%) for 58 yards and a 61.8 passer rating.

In the same span, No. 3 quarterback Sage Rosenfels is 30-of-47 (63.8%) for 392 yards with four touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 118.4 rating.

But just as it's been since last August, Jackson is comfortably ahead of Rosenfels on the depth chart -- and nothing short of an injury in Thursday's preseason finale against Denver is likely to alter the pecking order.

"It'd probably be hard for it to change," coach Brad Childress said on Monday afternoon.

Why does Jackson have such a clear edge?

For starters, Childress cites the body of Jackson's work through the offseason.

"Right from the first day of training camp, I've seen just an evolution and I've seen a growth in Tarvaris," Childress said. "Not that I haven't seen it from Sage -- he's been the beneficiary of having that extended (preseason) time, where he was able to flash."

The disparity in playing time is partly, if not largely, a product of starting quarterback Brett Favre's late arrival on Aug. 17.

Jackson had worked with the No. 1 offense throughout camp and played the customary one series in the preseason opener three days before Favre joined the team. Without a firm commitment from their 40-year-old signal-caller, the Vikings couldn't run the risk of leaving in Jackson behind a shaky No. 2 offensive line and having their erstwhile starter get hurt.

So, Jackson got the bulk of his work in relief of Favre on Aug. 22 at San Francisco -- completing 7 of 11 passes for 43 yards and leading the No. 1 offense to a field goal -- before an abbreviated appearance on Saturday against Seattle (1-for-3 passing, 4 yards).

Rosenfels got one series in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks and led a 10-play, 87-yard touchdown drive, completing 5 of 6 passes for 71 yards and a score while playing with (and against) backups.

"I thought Tarvaris played decently in the snaps that he got against San Francisco," Childress said. "Really, it's the day-to-day thing. You could say, 'Well, but it's about the games.' But we give them opportunities based on what we see in practice."

There also are the matters of Jackson's age -- at 27, he's five years younger than Sage Rosenfels, 32 -- and the four-plus years Childress has invested in Jackson's development since drafting him out of Alabama State in the second round (64th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft.

With rookie Joe Webb also in the mix, the most likely scenario still has the Vikings shopping Rosenfels before Saturday's 53-man roster reduction rather than trying to slip their highly talented-but-raw sixth-round draft pick through waivers.

Depending on whether Childress decides to give Favre a series or two, the other three quarterbacks each stand to get a quarter or more of action in a final audition against the Broncos -- although odds are strong the Vikings already know what they're going to do.

"Of course, you'd like to play more," Jackson said. "So, we'll see what happens in the last game."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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