Bears Camping out '14: After Cutler, position battles everywhere

Bears Camping out '14: After Cutler, position battles everywhere
July 16, 2014, 9:15 am
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Bears Insider John ‘Moon’ Mullin’ is getting you ready for Bears Training Camp, with previews of each position leading up to the day the Bears report to Bourbonnais.

Since Rex Grossman started all 16 games of the 2006 Super Bowl season, only once has a Bears quarterback taken every first snap in a season. That was Jay Cutler in 2009, whose new contract in January ensured the Bears the option of keeping him for the foreseeable future.

But it did not ensure against losing Cutler to an injury and taking the season with him. Failures at backup quarterback — Caleb Hanie, Todd Collins, Jason Campbell — cost the Bears games and with them, playoff chances. It remains the defining position on the football field and the one where the depth chart potentially determines season outcomes.

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Offseason adjustments

Only Cutler remains from the quarterback class on the roster to begin training camp and Opening Day last season. Josh McCown is with Tampa Bay, and Matt Blanchard is in Carolina.

Jordan Palmer came in after Blanchard was injured in the preseason, had a solid audition and was brought back after Cutler was hurt in Washington. The Bears re-signed him ahead of the start of free agency, drafted David Fales in the sixth round and then signed Jimmy Clausen.

“Jimmy Clausen has come in and absorbed a lot of the offense in a short period of time,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. “I wouldn’t say that he has it mastered by any means at this point. He has a long way to go in that fashion. For him, it’s basically taking a lot of our plays and learning Spanish because it’s a new terminology to run plays that he knows from different teams.”

None of the quarterbacks not named Cutler has thrown an NFL pass any more recently than 2010, or in the case of Fales, at all.

“I don’t know how many teams have veteran backups with a lot of experience, so I don’t think we’re behind the eight ball there,” said quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. “I think we’ve got young guys with a lot of talent, and they’re all competing to be ‘that guy.’

“I don’t know that everybody was convinced last year that Josh McCown was ‘that guy,’ but he prepared himself, put the work in, took his reps seriously, communicated with Jay and he was ready when he was called. So I don’t have any doubt that whoever it is will be ready to play.”

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Training camp will answer ...

... who’s No. 2? The Bears will not go into the season with two veteran backups. So Clausen and Palmer are in a direct competition to back up Cutler. Simple as that.

Clausen has more experience, starting games as Carolina’s No. 2 pick in 2010, Palmer has more experience in the Bears’ system. Performances in games will be critical.

“Because Jimmy’s got some years in the league, I don’t think there’s any scheme we’re running that he isn’t familiar with," Cavanaugh said. "It’s being able to hear it, call it quickly, communicate it in the huddle.”

Whether the Bears keep three, which they have not done in 2012 or 2013, Fales is tasked with demonstrating that he fits general manager Phil Emery’s criterion for a young quarterback, that he demonstrates the potential to challenge for at least the No. 2 job. How much he plays in preseason games remains to be seen, since the organization needs to arrive at a decision between Clausen and Palmer.

But he has developed the necessary sense of where he needs to start with Marc Trestman practices: “Chaos, bring the rage, intense, just intensity,” Fales said, “and always moving fast.”

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More Bears Camping Out '14:

— July 14: Offensive line
— July 15: Running backs
— July 16: Quarterbacks
— July 17: Wide receivers
— July 18: Special teams
— July 21: Linebackers
— July 22: Defensive backs
— July 23: Defensive line

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