Friday, June 6, 2014
Clausen intriguing pick in backup QB derby
By Michael C. Wright
Chicago's addition of veteran Jimmy Clausen on Thursday added a level of intrigue to the competition for the job as the primary backup to quarterback Jay Cutler.
Jordan Palmer appeared to be the front runner to seize that gig. But for undisclosed reasons, he participated only in the individual portion of the club's last session of organized team activities, which were open to the media. Two days later, the Bears bring in Clausen for a workout at Halas Hall and make the decision to sign him.
It's also interesting that Bears coach Marc Trestman played a role in preparing Clausen for the 2010 NFL draft.
So what did the team like about Clausen? Quite a bit, actually. First off, Clausen produced a strong workout for Trestman and the club's scouting staff. The way Clausen tossed the pill -- with a tight spin and good accuracy -- gave pretty much everyone in attendance confidence the quarterback is fully healthy after undergoing shoulder surgery last September to repair a torn right labrum suffered during the 2013 preseason finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The team likes Clausen's football smarts, and solid mechanics, too. Remember, Trestman is a stickler for mechanics and fundamentals. Clausen's mental toughness also played into the team's decision to bring him aboard.
As a second-round pick by the Carolina Panthers out of Notre Dame, Clausen started in 10 games as a rookie, but threw for just three touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 outings. The Panthers finished the 2010 season, fired the coach, and later used the No. 1 pick of the draft to select Cam Newton.
Clausen never took another regular-season snap in Carolina.
To push through the lack of success as a rookie, after being a highly-touted player throughout college and going into the draft, the shoulder injury, and the Panthers drafting Newton, Clausen showed a level of resilience and mental toughness the Bears appreciated. Throw in Clausen's experience: He's 26, and like Palmer, is going into his fifth season. Yet Clausen has thrown 284 more passes than Palmer, with 147 more completions for 1,499 yards.
Clausen further helped his cause with a good session on the board with the coaches, and a positive personal interview with them.
The team's plan is to carry a minimum of five quarterbacks through the end of veteran minicamp, which wraps up on June 19. As it stands now, the roster features five signal-callers in Cutler, Palmer, Clausen, Jerrod Johnson, and rookie sixth-round pick David Fales.
Emery said in March the team would “look at the draft for an opportunity to add to our quarterback roster,” and made good on that with the selection of Fales. In the very next breath, Emery mentioned the club would “bring in a bunch of veterans” after free agency, “take a look at who's still looking for an opportunity, and we'll bring them in, try them out, and we may sign another one.” The Clausen signing takes care of that one.
Now it's time to just sit back and watch how it all plays out.
Over the past four seasons, Cutler has missed 13 regular-season games because of injuries, and that doesn't include other games he was unable to finish. So recent history tells us at some point the backup quarterback will have to take some snaps. Now, it's all about determining who that player will be in 2014.