- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO – Jordan Palmer made a strong case to enter the regular season as the Chicago Bears’ No. 3 quarterback with a smooth first-half performance Thursday against Cleveland when he completed 11-of-17 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown, for a passer rating of 102.8.
In fact, Palmer deserved to finish with better numbers in a game the Bears lost 18-16. Chicago receivers dropped at least three throws that would have otherwise resulted in completions.
Bears head coach Marc Trestman previously stated that his preference has always been to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, and if that philosophy holds true over the next two days, it would be hard to imagine the club cutting ties with Palmer after it finalized an injury settlement with Matt Blanchard on Tuesday.
Trestman sounded impressed that Palmer was able to learn the offense in such a short period of time. The former Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback signed with the Bears on Aug. 17 and was pressed into action a mere six days later when he played the fourth quarter in the Bears’ third preseason game in Oakland.
With more time to prepare for the preseason finale, Palmer had command of the offense, despite throwing the ball to receivers that are bound to get cut before Saturday’s deadline to trim the roster to 53.
“It says a lot about his preparation,” Trestman said of Palmer’s effort Thursday night. “He came in here; he dug in; he has learned a lot of the offense and spent a lot of time, on his own, trying to assimilate all of it. I’m happy for him that he came out and played very efficiently for us.”
Palmer’s second-half replacement, Trent Edwards, passed for more yards (135) but had a more difficult time moving the offense down the field. Some of that, obviously, was due to the personnel on the field and substandard pass-protection. Edwards also had a ball go through the hands of tight end Fendi Onobun that resulted in an interception return for a touchdown. However, some of Edwards’ throws didn’t appear to be as sharp as Palmer's, but it is tough to be overly critical of a quarterback who's throwing to third-team wideouts and playing behind reserve offensive linemen.
But in the battle of backup quarterbacks Thursday, Palmer emerged as the winner. The next question is whether or not that earned him the opportunity to join Jay Cutler and Josh McCown on the Bears’ Week 1 depth chart.