Crisp Clausen commands confidence

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
12:21
AM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
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Jimmy ClausenDavid Banks/USA TODAY SportsJimmy Clausen "was poised for a guy who's been here so little time," Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

CHICAGO — In the event that Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler comes down with, well, pick an injury, the Bears can feel slightly more confident in their backup plan after the all-important first preseason game.

I never thought I'd write this, but I'm slightly more confident in Jimmy Clausen.

(Knocks on wood.)

(Throws salt over shoulder.)

(Crosses myself, even though I'm Jewish.)

I don't know if Clausen is the next Josh McCown -- who is, really? -- but he showed he can throw a little bit -- at least against third- and fourth-stringers of the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the Bears' 34-28 victory over the Eagles in both teams' preseason opener Friday night at Soldier Field, Clausen outplayed Jordan Palmer in the backup-quarterback derby, at least according to Twitter and a few press-box wags.

"I’m excited about what they did tonight," said Bears coach Marc Trestman, who added that "the competition will continue."

Finally armed with a decided schematic advantage -- sorry, Charlie Weis -- Clausen showed his strong training camp showing wasn't a Bourbonnais myth.

"I thought he moved the team well," Trestman said. "He was poised for a guy who’s been here so little time. I think we saw something there as well."

I think everybody would like to see Clausen against better competition next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but we don't need to go to the film to see that Clausen's passes had more zip than Palmer's.

[+] EnlargeJordan Palmer
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJordan Palmer completed eight of 11 attempts for 104 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Palmer's deep passes didn’t look as crisp, and even his 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Miller (who had six catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns) was more due to Miller's effort in the middle of the end zone. Trestman credited Palmer for improving after an early interception and for "moving the football team."

As for the numbers, Clausen went 7-for-13 for 150 yards and two scores before David Fales replaced him to start the fourth quarter.

Palmer went 8-for-11 for 104 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Cutler went 9-for-13 for 85 yards and a 10-yard touchdown pass in his two series. He also wore a Cubs hat to the postgame news conference, proving that Javier Baez's home debut really ruled the day in Chicago.

It's tough for me to judge quarterbacking in this kind of environment because of the quality of competition and the vanilla play calls -- a heavy dose of short passes to tight ends and deep passes down the sideline. But I'm sure Trestman knows what he's looking for to make a decision.

Clausen obviously has more talent and experience, even if his experience quarterbacking the Carolina Panthers was pretty frightening for all involved.

If there was one play by which most of us amateurs knew Clausen was the guy, it came in his third possession.

After a 7-yard run by Sinorice Perry, it was second-and-3 from the Bears' 27-yard line. Clausen dropped back into the shotgun with two receivers to his left, one to his right. Clausen saw blitz and audibled from a run to a pass. He threw a perfect strike to a streaking Chris Williams, the former Canadian Football League star, who bobbled it before reining it in and running down the right sideline for a 73-yard touchdown.

"It was a great release by him," Clausen said. "I just tried to look the safety off and give him a chance to score on that. He just ran underneath it and made a great play."

"Perfect throw, perfect throw," said Williams, who tweaked his hamstring on the play. "You can’t beat that throw right there."

Later in the quarter, Clausen hit Micheal Spurlock on a 20-yard out pattern and found a wide-open Spurlock again for a 22-yard touchdown. Nice play, but let's just say it wasn't against the A-team defense.

"Normally, in zone [coverage], you've got people around you," Spurlock said. "But no one was around me. I appreciate them not being around me to give me a touchdown."

Clausen appreciated it, too, I’m sure. Preseason games means nothing, unless you're trying to win a backup job.

Maybe Clausen isn't the No. 2 quarterback next week, but I'm betting he will be by the end of the preseason. Adjust your season predictions accordingly.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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