Chicago Bears: Jimmy clausen

QB snapshot: Jimmy Clausen

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
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A quick observation of quarterback Jimmy Clausen and how he played in the Chicago Bears' 20-14 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 16:

Clausen
Seeking a "spark" to ignite Chicago's dormant offense, Bears coach Marc Trestman benched Jay Cutler in favor of backup Jimmy Clausen, and while the tactic appeared to work initially, ultimately the club dropped its fourth in a row as the unit put up just 14 points.

For the most part, Clausen produced an error-free game, but he did throw one interception with 2:02 left to play on a fourth-down desperation heave. So while Clausen didn't make many of the game-changing mistakes we've seen from Cutler, the truth is the quarterback proved only that he's a capable NFL backup. Nothing more. But we won't discount the fact Clausen played against one of the NFL's best defenses with little prep time, and without the services of starting left guard Kyle Long.

Still, Clausen was only mediocre in his first start since 2010, finishing the game with two touchdown passes and a rating of 77.0, while completing only one pass for a gain of more than 18 yards (20-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery in the third quarter). In Clausen's defense, Jeffery did drop four passes, and the Bears were unable to generate a sufficient rushing attack (55 yards rushing from Matt Forte). But the quarterback put together only one legitimate scoring drive (80 yards on 15 plays, aided by a roughing-the-kicker penalty that gave Chicago a first down after a stalled drive).

Clausen's second scoring drive came as the result of a muffed punt recovered on the Detroit 11.
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Marc Trestman benched starting quarterback Jay Cutler in favor of backup Jimmy Clausen for Sunday's 20-14 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Then mysterious circumstances -- the team's announcement that Clausen was ruled out after suffering a concussion Sunday for which delayed symptoms surfaced Monday -- called for Trestman to go back to Cutler for the season finale at Minnesota. Trestman mentioned that Cutler gives the Bears the best chance to win, which is absolutely true. But if Cutler's future is truly as murky as the team's recent actions indicate, why risk getting the quarterback hurt, which would diminish his trade value while potentially making the Bears liable for $10 million of the quarterback's $16 million base salary for 2016 if he's still on the roster on the third day of the 2015 league year (March 12)?

Remember, you can't move an injured player.

Cutler said all the right things last week in the wake of the benching. But from this vantage point, Trestman made a move in benching Cutler that he can't undo. In what appeared to be a desperate attempt to keep his job, Trestman damaged the relationship with Cutler. Likely forever.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen
Joe Sargent/Getty ImagesIn a questionable move, Jay Cutler will start in the Bears' Week 17 game at Minnesota on Sunday.
So Trestman's decision to go back to Cutler makes little sense, given there's absolutely nothing left for the Bears to play for Sunday in Minnesota.

Even receiver Brandon Marshall admitted Monday during his radio show on ESPN 1000 he's "sure there's some bitterness there or something there," and that Cutler coming back "is playing with your emotions a little bit."

Cutler's salary guarantees make it difficult enough to trade the quarterback because any franchise grabbing him would basically be forced to make a two-year commitment. So the quarterback going down with an injury in a meaningless game would only increase the difficulty the Bears already face this offseason, if the plan truly is to move Cutler.

Trestman insisted the relationship with the quarterback isn't strained. But even if that's truly the case, it's still bad business to play Cutler against the Vikings. Besides, why not give rookie David Fales a chance to showcase his skills?

"Jay's comments to the media were very similar to mine. We didn't practice together, in terms of what we were going to say. I said very specifically that I believe that Jay can work his way out of this," Trestman said. "And I've enjoyed coaching him and working with him. And we had dialogue last week. And we worked together last week. It was a tough week on him. I empathize with him on that. But we're moving forward, both with the idea that we've worked together for a long time and that hasn't changed."

What has changed is the functionality in the Chicago Bears' organization. That, certainly needs to change.
Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman remained noncommittal on Monday about keeping Jimmy Clausen in the starting lineup, coming off the quarterback’s performance Sunday during a 20-14 loss to the Detroit Lions.

“We’ll talk about it today,” Trestman said Monday on WBBM Newsradio 780. “I thought he had a good performance. He needed some help, he didn’t get it; had a few drops along the way, had a couple of missed assignments up front in the running game that we could have had a little bit more yardage in the run game.”

Clausen
With Jay Cutler, the NFL’s highest-paid offensive player, backing him up, Clausen passed for two touchdowns and an interception in the loss to Detroit, generating a passer rating of 77.0. Clausen passed for just 181 yards on the day against a Lions defense that entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed (17.0) and second in total yards (300.3-yard average).

The quarterback was able to do that with little prep time and without starting left guard Kyle Long, who was a last-minute scratch due to a hip injury.

“I thought he handled himself, for two practices, and having not played for four years, certainly a good performance,” Trestman said.

When Trestman first announced the decision to bench Cutler in favor of Clausen, the coach paused for nearly five seconds when asked whether general manager Phil Emery was on board with the move. Trestman declined to revisit the decision when asked whether benching Cutler was the right move.

“Well, you never look back in this business. You can’t do that,” Trestman said. “You can only move forward, and you have to live with the decisions that you’ve made.”

Obviously, a major component of that is whether Trestman will keep his job as head coach given the decision to bench Cutler, along with myriad other factors such as the team’s disappointing record with so many offensive weapons after a promising 2013 campaign, not to mention serious concerns expressed inside the locker room regarding what players view as a lack of accountability for some and uneven discipline levied by the coach.

Trestman indicated ownership has not yet hinted at his fate.

“As I said to the media during the last couple of weeks, when you’re a 5-10 coach, everything is on the table,” Trestman said. “All I can say is inside everybody has been very supportive.”
CHICAGO -- The body-language police likely focused a critical eye on Jay Cutler during Chicago’s 20-14 loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions, but behind the scenes, the benched quarterback spent extra time at Halas Hall preparing Jimmy Clausen for his first start since his rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2010.

Cutler
“He was involved during the week in the meetings, actively and vocally involved,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said of Cutler. “Today, he did what you would expect him to do. He was with Jimmy and [quarterbacks coach] Matt [Cavanaugh] between series and was part of the dialogue.”

Clausen threw two touchdown passes and an interception, with a passer rating of 77.0. But with just two days of prep time, Clausen said Cutler and rookie David Fales stayed with him until nearly 9 p.m. those nights at the team’s facilities.

When Clausen signed with the team in June, Cutler immediately took the backup quarterback under his wing.

“We only had two days to prepare for this game, so we stayed pretty much until 8:30 p.m. every single night, trying to watch as much tape as possible, get all the calls down,” Clausen said. “Get everything down to make sure we were prepared for this game. But Jay was great. David Fales was great in helping me to go through all the calls, watching the film. Staying real late, they helped me out a lot.”
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CHICAGO -- No brilliant aerial display or 100-plus passer rating for Jimmy Clausen. Not even a victory for that matter.

Yet when Chicago walked off the field 20-14 losers to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field, the feeling permeating the locker room and postgame press conference room wasn’t one of despair with Clausen falling short in his first start since 2010 because the quarterback kept the Bears in it until the end.

“What do I think I did for myself?” Clausen asked. “I think I just went out there and competed. That’s the biggest thing I think I did, and showed I can play in this league. It’s not about me or anything about that. It’s about winning football games. That’s what we were trying to do today against a division opponent, and we came up short.”

With Jay Cutler, the NFL’s highest-paid offensive player backing him up, Clausen tossed two touchdown passes and absorbed a pair of sacks on the way to producing a passer rating of 77.0. Clausen passed for just 181 yards on the day against a Lions defense that entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed (17.0) and second in total yards (300.3-yard average)

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesJimmy Clausen avoided the types of game-changing mistakes that have plagued Jay Cutler all season.
So Marc Trestman probably didn't save his job by benching Cutler last week in favor of Clausen, because the new starter didn’t exactly light up the Lions. But it’s important to note the Bears attacked Detroit’s vaunted defense with a scaled-back game plan due to Clausen’s limited repetitions, while taking the field with a pair of rookie backups (Ryan Groy and Michael Ola) at the guard positions along an offensive line that gave up seven sacks just six days prior against New Orleans’ 31st-ranked defense.

Trestman sought “a spark” when naming Clausen the starter, and received as much in Sunday’s loss.

Against the playoff-bound Lions, the Bears led 14-10 to start the fourth quarter.

“I think that Jimmy, as the game went on, continued to get more comfortable,” Trestman said. “We cut down the quantity of plays we had in the game plan. We matched it up against things we’ve seen Detroit do defensively, and tried to give them the things and packages he would need to get it done. We certainly had more than enough today to utilize that. He did a nice job during the week, not only during practice, but after practice with the guys, getting the reps and assignment checks he needed to see everything. I felt good about that going in today.”

The coach also likely feels positive vibes about the way Clausen stayed within the confines of the scheme -- which is what Trestman wanted all along from the original starter -- without taking unnecessary risks and making the same game-changing mistakes that ultimately led to the decision to bench Cutler.

Trestman paused for nearly five seconds last week when asked whether general manager Phil Emery was on board with his decision to bench Cutler. That pause indicated the coach and general manager, who signed Cutler to a seven-year, $126.7 million deal last January, may not have seen eye to eye regarding that decision.

But if Clausen plays mistake-free football within Trestman’s scheme and experiences success to close the season next week at Minnesota, perhaps it proves the coach’s system works just fine, and that Cutler was the problem all along. Again, it’s probably too late for Cutler’s benching to save Trestman’s job. But if Clausen closes on a positive note, it at least gives ownership pause when making decisions about the futures of Trestman, Cutler and even Emery, who has been steadfast in his support of the quarterback.

Down 20-14 with 2:30 left to play, Clausen hit Marquess Wilson for a 7-yard gain on first down. On second down, Clausen scrambled around right end, only to be rocked by Ezekiel Ansah, who was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness after knocking off the quarterback’s helmet.

Clausen popped up quickly, later admitting “my emotions are going 100 miles a minute at that time, I’m just fired up.” But that sequence rubbed off on the rest of the team.

“I respect that,” Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff said.

“Oh yeah, he’s a fiery guy, man,” said center Roberto Garza. “He was in the game trying to make plays all through the game, and he was the reason we were in this game.”

Not the reason the Bears were out of it, like they’d been so many times before with Cutler and his NFL-high 24 turnovers at the helm.

When the Bears fell 34-17 on Thanksgiving at Detroit, Cutler passed for 280 yards and two touchdowns, but he also tossed two interceptions, with the Lions converting one of the turnovers into a Matt Prater field goal.

Clausen threw an interception in the fourth quarter on a desperation shot on fourth-and-10 from the Chicago 45 with just 2:02 left to play.

Trestman declined to name Clausen the starter for the season-finale at Minnesota, but the quarterback whose record as a starter now stands at 1-10, hopes the brass gives him another shot.

It's not like the Bears have anything else to lose.

“I’ve never given up,” Clausen said when asked if he thought he’d never receive another shot to start in the NFL. “You can never give up. The only thing you can ask for is another opportunity. That’s what Coach Trestman gave me today, another opportunity. I just went out there and tried to compete to the best of my ability, make the plays when the plays were there.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jimmy Clausen spent extra time after Friday’s practice working through plays with the receiving corps and running back Matt Forte in preparation for Sunday’s matchup against the Detroit Lions, but coach Marc Trestman said the new starter at quarterback will enter the contest with a scaled-back game plan.

Clausen
While Clausen and rookie David Fales took in the extra work at Halas Hall, recently benched quarterback Jay Cutler was conspicuously absent despite saying Thursday he planned to help the new starter as much as possible.

“With the limited practice day, we’ve gotten a lot extra work done with these guys,” Trestman said. “They’ve put in some extra time to make sure everybody’s in the right spot and knows where to go. [The Bears will utilize] probably not the quantity of plays [usually called with Cutler under center] because we haven’t had an opportunity to rep them with [Clausen] throughout the year.”

A former second-round pick, Clausen receives his first NFL start on Sunday since 2010, when the quarterback finished with a 1-9 record as a Carolina Panther while generating the lowest season-ending QBR (11.0) for a qualified quarterback in any season for which the statistic has been tracked.

In Clausen’s 10 starts in 2010, the quarterback threw for three touchdowns and nine interceptions.

“This is a very businesslike team,” Trestman said when asked how the team is handling the change at quarterback. “They go back to work, and they’ve done the things they’ve done each and every day after wins and after losses. Quite frankly, that’s how they responded: in a very consistent manner. I can’t speak for anybody else. We’ve made a change. Jimmy is going to play. I know he’ll give his best effort. I know each and every guy is playing to win the game. That’s how we look at it.”

Interestingly, Cutler didn’t stay after practice Friday to work with Clausen, while Fales did. Trestman said Cutler will serve as the No. 2 quarterback, while also divulging Fales won’t be active for Sunday’s matchup against the Lions.

Prediction: Lions will beat Bears

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman dropped a bombshell Wednesday when he decided to start quarterback Jimmy Clausen on Sunday against the Detroit Lions, instead of Jay Cutler. From a performance standpoint, Cutler deserved to be benched, especially following a dreadful, three interception game versus the New Orleans Saints on Monday night that raised the quarterback’s season turnover total to a league-worst 24.

Clausen is not considered an upgrade. It’s more an act of desperation. Clausen hasn’t played meaningful regular season football since starting 10 games for the Carolina Panthers in 2010, going 1-9. In three appearances as a Bear, Clausen has passed for 42 yards. Keep in mind, Detroit’s defense is No. 1 overall in points allowed (17.0) and No. 2 in total defense. Chicago hasn’t played well since October. The Lions can clinch a playoff berth with a victory. The writing is clearly on the wall.

My prediction: Lions 41, Bears 16
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears are not mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, but at 5-8 there is not much left for the Bears to play for with three games remaining.

Cutler
Still, Bears coach Marc Trestman won’t be taking a look to see what the club has in backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

"Jay [Cutler] is our quarterback," Trestman said. "If he’s available to play, he’s going to play. Jimmy is continuing to work in the offense, and he practices. We certainly like having him on our football team, but as we get ready for New Orleans next week, Jay will get the reps and he’ll be playing."

Signed to a seven-year contract worth $126.7 million back in January, Cutler hasn’t given the Bears much return on investment, considering the quarterback currently leads the league in turnovers (21) and entered Thursday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys ranked 30th among 34 qualified signal callers in completion percentage (49.5) on throws deeper than 5 yards down the field.

Cutler passed for 341 yards and two touchdowns to go with a passer rating of 96.4 against the Cowboys, but the bulk of the quarterback’s production came in garbage time. The Bears trailed 35-7 to start the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys playing soft coverage to preserve their lead.

"I think we evaluate his performances game by game, and then when the season’s over, we evaluate the year," Trestman said. "So I don’t go into the statistical aspects of what he did this week or the next week. It’s how did he play yesterday, and how will he play next week? Really, that’s the only way we look at it from a week to week standpoint, make the corrections, go over what we did well, what we didn’t do well, and then move on."
Most significant move: The Chicago Bears officially made Jimmy Clausen the No. 2 quarterback and jettisoned Jordan Palmer, who quickly signed with the Buffalo Bills. While Clausen and Palmer aren’t considered proven commodities, the latter had more familiarity and experience in Chicago’s offense. Jay Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game regular season since 2009, so it’s almost a given that at some point in 2014 the Bears will need to lean on the backup quarterback. That’s not to say the Bears made the wrong move, because Clausen appears to be the better player. Interestingly, Palmer signed with Chicago’s Week 1 opponent: the Buffalo Bills. So there’s a good chance the Bills are pumping Palmer for information on Chicago’s offense.

The end of a career? The Bears signed Adrian Wilson hoping he still possessed many of the physical traits that made him one of the NFL’s most dominating safeties over the years. Had Wilson panned out, he would have given the Bears the type of physical presence on the back end they haven’t had since Mike Brown roamed the secondary. The Bears gave Wilson plenty of opportunities to earn a spot on the team, but he never flashed the brilliance that made him such a force for so many years with the Arizona Cardinals. Wilson says he’s a “prideful person,” but at this point it appears his career is over.

What’s next: The Bears finish out the preseason on Thursday at Cleveland, and upon returning they’ll start to finalize the roster heading into the Aug. 30 cutdown date before beginning preparation for the regular-season opener against the Bills.

Bears' cuts: QB Jordan Palmer, KR/PR Darius Reynaud, LB Jordan Senn, RB Michael Ford, WR Greg Herd, WR Kofi Hughes, OT Joe Long, RB Derricus Purdy, DB Peyton Thompson, DT Nate Collins, OG Dylan Gandy, S Adrian Wilson, S Craig Steltz, OG James Brown, B Isaiah Frey.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A combination of experience, preseason performance and upside landed Jimmy Clausen the No. 2 job at quarterback, according to Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman.

The Bears released Clausen's primary competition, Jordan Palmer, on Sunday, leaving the former, Jay Cutler, and David Fales as the quarterbacks remaining on the roster.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsJimmy Clausen, who was drafted by Carolina in 2010, will back up Bears' starting QB Jay Cutler.
"They both competed really hard for the job," Trestman said. "As I told Jordan, Jimmy played at a consistent level, as did Jordan. I really threw out the five or six plays Jordan had the other night backed up. I know Jordan was terribly upset about that situation. That really didn't come into the consideration. Jimmy's played a lot more football in this league. He's younger, and I thought the competition was very close. But I thought at the end of the day, I think the upside for Jimmy, his age, his experience, and he came highly recommended from some people I trust in Carolina."

Clausen and Palmer put up similar numbers through the first three games of the preseason. Palmer completed 70 percent of his passes for 225 yards, a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 88.9. Clausen hit on 64.9 percent of his throws for 280 yards, two touchdowns, an INT and a passer rating of 94.4.

But Clausen has started in 10 of the 13 regular season games he's played in the NFL, while Palmer has thrown just 15 passes in the four games he's played. Clausen is 26. Palmer is 30.

In what proved to be the final test pitting Clausen against Palmer on Friday night in Seattle, neither produced stellar numbers. Palmer completed 7 of 10 for 48 yards to finish with a passer rating of 80.4. Clausen hit on 6 of 9 for 36 yards and a 74.3 passer rating.

"It's good that the coaches have the confidence in me to name me the No. 2 behind Jay [Cutler]," Clausen said. "But we've got a long way to go. I don't even remember the last game I played, my rookie year. But it's a great opportunity like I said from Day 1. [I've] just got to keep going out each and every day, getting better and doing everything I can to help the team win."

Clausen put together a solid workout in June at Halas Hall, in addition to a reassuring personal interview and X's and O's session on the board, prompting the Bears to add him to the mix in their search for a primary backup to Cutler.

The team liked Clausen's experience, mechanics and football smarts, as well as his mental toughness. In addition to handling injuries and a lack of success as a rookie, Clausen quietly weathered the disappointment of the Carolina Panthers drafting Cam Newton and immediately inserting him as the starter.

"His ability to handle the adversity that he had in his first year, his leadership qualities, he stood up tall through a lot of tough times in Carolina, and gained the respect of his teammates and the team there with the way he handled himself in a very, very difficult year," Trestman said. "So that, plus performance, plus experience, plus youth were a lot of the reasons if I can give you some content. It wasn't everything. At the end of the day it really comes down to how you feel about things. You weigh some content there that I gave you to make that decision. We wish Jordan the best. He not only competed hard, he really invested in our football team. He emotionally invested. He coached. He shared. He coached other guys up, guys at his position. He's a tremendous young man, and we'll look forward to him landing on his feet somewhere."

Palmer expressed gratitude for the opportunity in Chicago on Twitter on Sunday, posting "I'll be wearing #Bears gear and supporting the Bears for the rest of my life. Regardless of what happens. This is the best org in the NFL."

Clausen, meanwhile, believes his experiences in Carolina -- while negative -- might have helped with the latest situation.

"One of the big things is sitting and looking back on the sidelines the past few years in Carolina just sitting and learning really did help," Clausen said. "I didn't have that in college. I didn't have that in high school. Just to sit back and take a step back and look at everything helped the game slow down a little bit for me, and [I] just learned how to play in the NFL because it's totally different from college."

W2W4: Chicago Bears

August, 22, 2014
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The Chicago Bears (2-0) face the Seattle Seahawks (1-1) in preseason game No. 3 at CenturyLink Field.
  • No. 3 receiver battle: Bears coach Marc Trestman said Josh Morgan deserves first shot at the No. 3 job with Marquess Wilson on the shelf because of a fractured clavicle. So Morgan is set to receive all the repetitions at the No. 3 spot with the first-team offense. He’s been one of the team’s most productive targets this preseason, but the Bears signed Santonio Holmes on Saturday. Holmes expects to play sparingly. So he’ll certainly be a player to watch as Chicago continues to look for a competent complement to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The Bears plan to make sure to put Holmes into situations he's comfortable with to help him succeed as he learns Chicago's offense.
  • How starters handle the noise: In addition to changing eating, sleeping and practices in anticipation for the late West Coast start, the Bears have worked all week at operating in noisy environments, such as what they’ll see at CenturyLink Field. The club catered its game plan going into this contest to feature as little verbiage as possible in making adjustments, and the Bears plan to utilize silent snap counts all game in addition to using hand signals to call in plays. The Bears welcome the challenge of dealing with the noise after struggling in the last preseason game to call plays because of headset malfunctions.
  • Competition for No. 2 quarterback: The Bears plan to play Jay Cutler and the first-team offense into the early part of the second half. Afterward, Jordan Palmer will be the first quarterback off the bench as he continues to compete with Jimmy Clausen for the primary backup job. Right now, the competition appears too close to call. So this game will play a major role in the staff’s decision. Palmer’s completion percentage (70.0) is higher than Clausen’s (64.3), but the latter owns the better passer rating (123.3) and has thrown one more touchdown pass this preseason (2).

Jordan Palmer will be No. 2 QB in Seattle

August, 20, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. – With the No. 2 quarterback spot still up for grabs, Jordan Palmer will be the first quarterback off the bench to replace starter Jay Cutler when the Chicago Bears travel to Seattle on Friday night to face the Seattle Seahawks.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced on Wednesday he planned to switch the quarterback rotation after Jimmy Clausen relieved Cutler last week at Soldier Field against Jacksonville.

Palmer
Clausen went 11-of-15 for 94 yards and one interception before giving way to Palmer, who completed 6 of 9 throws for 73 yards and one touchdown.

“Jay will work certainly into the second quarter and we'll make a decision during the second quarter what we're going to do with him,” Trestman said. “That will be dependent on a number of different things. And then after that we'll have Jordan, so expect Jordan to play the third quarter and Jimmy to play the fourth. We'll continue to rotate these guys around. We've got another week after this one and that's the way we'll operate this week.”

Trestman hinted the quarterback competition might run through the final preseason game next Thursday in Cleveland. NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 30. It’s unclear if the Bears plan to keep both Clausen and Palmer on the final 53-man roster. One might have to go if the Bears decide to keep just two quarterbacks, and perhaps rookie David Fales could make the 10-man practice squad if the rookie clears waivers.

W2W4: Chicago Bears

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
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The Chicago Bears (1-0) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) in preseason game No. 2 at Soldier Field. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

1. Backup quarterback battle: Jordan Palmer received first crack at the No. 2 job in the preseason opener, but in this matchup, the plan is for the Bears to go with Jimmy Clausen once Jay Cutler is finished for the night. Palmer played fairly well in the preseason opener, but Clausen stole the show when he came in, finishing with two touchdown passes and a passer rating of 134.6. If Clausen performs similarly against the Jaguars, it’s likely the Bears take away all the suspense in this battle and name him the No. 2. Remember, Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009, which makes the backup quarterback job important.

2. Linebacker play: Collectively, the group played poorly in the opener against the Eagles. But in its defense, the team was matched up against a high-octane, no-huddle offense that featured plenty of zone-read concepts that the Bears hadn’t game-planned for. Specifically, Jonathan Bostic and Shea McClellin need to play better. Considering he started nine games as a rookie, Bostic should be poised to take a major step in his development, but we haven’t yet see that. McClellin is making the transition from defensive end, and the staff remains confident he’ll progress enough that the team would feel confident about making him the starter on the strong side.

3. Zach Miller’s bid for the No. 2 tight end job: Incumbent Dante Rosario missed practice Tuesday with soreness in his calf, and if he’s held out of this matchup, Miller basically will receive the opportunity to solidify what appears to be a stranglehold on that No. 2 tight end spot. Miller caught six passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns in his preseason debut, and has since been given more repetitions with the starters when the offense goes to two-tight-end sets. Another strong showing by Miller in this game could outright win him the job, and he needs to take advantage. So far, Miller has taken advantage of every opportunity he’s been given. This game should be no different for him.

Jimmy Clausen to relieve Cutler vs. Jags

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- In a reversal from last week, Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced on Tuesday that reserve Jimmy Clausen is slated to be the first quarterback off the bench to replace Jay Cutler, ahead of Jordan Palmer, when the Bears host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night.

“Right now, we’re going to have Jimmy relieve Jay,” Trestman said. “He’ll have the shot whenever Jay comes out of the game, whenever that is. But both of them will play.

Trestman said in July that Palmer would receive the first shot to be the No. 2 quarterback, but cautioned that nothing was official. The two quarterbacks have each had opportunities to lead the second-team offense at various points of camp over the past three weeks.

“They’re both making plays [in practice],” Trestman said. “They are both competing. I’ve told both of them that nothing is set in stone from last week. We grade them every day and we’re watching all the tape. We’re making the corrections with each of them, and it’s still a competition. They know it and we’re [dividing up the reps] that way.”

Both reserve quarterbacks performed admirably in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.

After Cutler guided the offense for 18 plays last Friday night, Palmer entered the game late in the first quarter and completed 8 of 11 passes for 104 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Clausen took over in the third quarter and proceeded to connect on 7 of 13 throws for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 134.6.

“They’re both working hard,” Cutler said. “They are both learning the offense and trying to do exactly what the coaches want them to do. They’re getting out of the huddle and making their reads. They’ve got a few more preseason games so we’ll see how it works.”
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Lovie Smith finished 10-6 in his final season with the Chicago Bears before being fired. Marc Trestman comes in and leads the Bears to an 8-8 record in 2013. Yet expectations soar here on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, where crowds for training camp practices routinely swell to 10,000.

It’s easy to see why. For a fan base accustomed to hard-nosed defense and shaky-at-best offense, Trestman flipped the script in 2013, taking Chicago’s attack to new heights with a major assist from general manager Phil Emery’s shrewd personnel moves.

The Bears broke record after record on offense last season, and the defense stumbled to historic lows.

If Trestman and Emery could basically work a miracle on offense in just one season, why can’t they do it on the other side of the ball in 2014?

“[I] feel very good about the competitive depth and the fights for positions that we're going to have,” Emery said. “Out of the three camps, I would say this camp has the best competitive level among the roster from 1 to 90.”

Emery achieved that by loading up on defenders: acquiring a mix of players poised to hit the sweet spot of their careers in Lamarr Houston and Willie YoungJared Allen, and drafting potential stars such as first-round pick Kyle Fuller. The Bears bolstered those moves with an overhaul of the scheme and additions to the defensive coaching staff.

“We started [with], ‘What could we do to get this team better?’” Trestman said. “I sat down with Phil [Emery], and we began to lay out a road map together on how we were going to rebuild this football team, and here we are at a stage where I don’t think there’s a player in our meeting room who doesn’t feel like there’s hope and high expectations. Now, it’s time to go to work.”

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJay Cutler is more comfortable in coach Marc Trestman's system, and all of his offensive weapons are healthy and ready to go.
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. Jay Cutler’s grasp of the offense is firmer in Year 2 of Trestman’s system, and his performance this year at camp is significantly different from in 2013. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said Cutler is his own problem solver and is making on-field adjustments so instinctively that he doesn’t need guidance from the staff. In his first camp under Trestman, Cutler misfired routinely, and there were concerns about whether he’d be effective in the regular season. After one particularly bad session in 2013, Trestman gathered Cutler and the other quarterbacks in the middle of the field in what could be described as a turning point. That’s not happening this year at camp as Cutler has become a bona fide field general.

2. Brandon Marshall is Brandon Marshall. He wasn’t at camp in 2013. He was coming off hip surgery that hindered his season preparation. Fully healthy now with an offseason to condition, Marshall is ready to go -- and with full comprehension of the offensive system. Throw in Alshon Jeffery’s ascension and you have the makings of something lethal on offense. The duo has certainly looked that way at camp as both routinely make so many eye-popping plays that Cutler could almost throw it up blindly and one of them would come down with the ball.

3. There’s a nastiness on defense and intense focus reminiscent of the units put on the field in Smith’s heyday. Practicing against one of the best offenses in the league, the defense should be losing more than it does at training camp. But this group routinely bests the offense, with dominating play by the front seven as a hallmark. Chalk it up to a combination of personnel additions and a culture shift brought about by an overhaul of the scheme and the acquisition of no-nonsense, get-in-your-face coaches such as Paul Pasqualoni, Reggie Herring and Clint Hurtt.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mundy
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bears brought Ryan Mundy in to compete at safety, but the position, at least in camp, continues to look shaky.
THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The defensive line makes plays at training camp. The corners and linebackers make plays. But you rarely see the safeties making an impact. That could be a result of a lack of chemistry because, with both spots up for grabs, the Bears are using several combinations at the position involving players such as Ryan Mundy, rookie Brock Vereen, Danny McCray, Adrian Wilson and M.D. Jennings. Horrid play at this position in 2013 contributed significantly to the defense’s demise, and we haven’t seen many indications at camp that the Bears will turn that around in 2014.

2. Protecting Cutler could become an issue if some of the injuries suffered by the team's offensive linemen linger. Guard Kyle Long (ankle) and tackle Jordan Mills (foot) missed the preseason opener, and the latter was seen wearing a walking boot when the club returned to training camp after that game. Reserve center Brian de la Puente is expected to miss time to a knee injury, and reserve guard/tackle Eben Britton still hasn’t returned from a strained hamstring suffered earlier at camp.

3. Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009. So naturally, you’d think at some point in 2014 the Bears will have to turn to the backup quarterback. The problem is the candidates vying for the No. 2 job -- Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen -- have done little to inspire confidence the way Josh McCown did last year at training camp. For the most part, Palmer and Clausen have been merely average at camp, misfiring on occasion and making mistakes typical of players acclimating themselves to a scheme. The duo needs to pick it up or the Bears could wind up looking outside the current roster for a suitable No. 2.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Chris Conte says he’s the best athlete in Chicago’s secondary. He needs to prove it, which he'll finally have a chance to do now that he's off the physically unable to perform list. Conte certainly possesses the athleticism to be a playmaker on the back end, provided he regains his confidence. But time is running out for Conte to make a real push for one of the two open jobs at safety. What Conte has going for him right now is that none of the safeties vying for the starting jobs is making plays at camp.
  • The Bears hired martial arts expert Joe Kim to teach the defensive linemen hand fighting techniques as part of the scheme overhaul that requires the front four players to be technicians with their hands. It’ll be interesting to see how the results manifest themselves on the field. Every day after practice at camp, several defensive linemen -- and even some defensive backs -- work intricate hand fighting moves with Kim for several minutes. The players say the moves become almost natural once routinely put into practice on the field. We’ll see whether Kim’s assistance plays a role in the front four anchoring a run defense that finished last in 2013.
  • Zach Miller and Matthew Mulligan are pushing Dante Rosario hard for the No. 2 job at tight end. Miller is more of a move tight end, and Mulligan is a classic in-line blocker who shows some impressive skills as a receiver. The two have received extra reps because of Martellus Bennett's suspension.

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