Coaches have been adamant that the competition between Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer for the job as Bears No. 2 quarterback is truly open and that no excessive significance should be assigned to order of play in games and practices. Games will carry more weight than practices, meaning that how Clausen and Palmer perform Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars will count for more than what happened on any given day in Bourbonnais.
“You see it every day out here (in camp),” coach Marc Trestman said. “They’re both making plays. They’re competing. I’ve talked to both of them that nothing’s set in stone from last week. We grade them every day. We’re watching all the tape. We’re making the corrections with each of them. It’s still a competition, and they know it. We’re repping them that way.”
But there will come a tipping point, or points, and Clausen and Palmer are approaching theirs.
Clausen arguably edged ahead last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, with a performance that included 7-for-13 passing netting 150 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 134.6. Palmer was solid, with a touchdown pass and 94.5 rating.
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But the smudge on Palmer’s day was an interception, which is weighted heavily in rating calculations and, more importantly, coaches’ evaluations. Palmer suffered a pair of interceptions in Monday’s camp practice, and if there is one element that will factor more than all others in the decision, it is ball security.
Comparing apples to apples can be difficult in preseason. Palmer was first off the bench against Philadelphia, putting him against second-stringers on defense, where Clausen went against No. 3’s. But that also means that Clausen was working with third-stringers as well, vs. Palmer with the 2’s.
Part of the unspoken task before Palmer is that he is older (30) than Clausen (26) and has played in just four NFL games since 2008 while Clausen started 10 games as a Carolina Panthers rookie in 2010.
Loose translation: If the two are equal, Clausen projects as the likely choice based on upside. Palmer has been here before.
“In my position, I’ve had to compete every single year,” Palmer said. “Since I was in high school, I’ve had to compete for the job. I had to beat somebody out or had to compete to keep my job.”