For Bears, backup QB 1 of few questions on offense
JUL 26, 2014 4:52p ET
If everything goes according to plan, his knowledge of the system won't be tested in a meaningful way.
The Bears would love nothing more than to see Cutler get through the season without missing time and render the backup quarterback spot a non-issue.
Instead, it's one of the few areas of concern for an offense that ranked among the league's best last season and has all its starters back.
For now, coach Marc Trestman has the returning Jordan Palmer in the lead. Then, there's Clausen trying to win it, with rookie David Fales likely trailing the pack.
''They're both very hungry,'' Cutler said. ''They've both worked extremely hard this offseason putting in the time mentally, which is probably more important for them right now, just trying to figure out the playbook so they can go to the line of scrimmage and be fluent in what they want to do. We'll see how it goes.''
There is no shortage of eyes on this competition, given Cutler's history of injuries and the departure of veteran Josh McCown. He played his way to a starting role in Tampa Bay after making the most of his opportunity when he got the call with the Bears last season.
Now, Palmer and Clausen are competing.
Neither has thrown a pass since 2010, but assuming the Bears don't bring in someone else, one of them could be called on if Cutler gets hurt.
''The guys are doing a heck of a job in terms of what we've seen,'' Trestman said Saturday after the Bears completed their second training camp practice. ''I think you've seen it. I think you've seen some pretty sufficient play in the backup role.''
Trestman and general manager Phil Emery expressed confidence in Palmer as the No. 2 quarterback early in the offseason. But that didn't stop them from giving him some competition.
The Bears signed Clausen, the former Notre Dame star, to a one-year deal in early June following a strong workout. Almost as soon as the ink dried on his contract, he found himself getting a crash course in the system from Cutler.
''He helped me out a lot, especially that first day, going through the formations and just the basic things they do in this offense,'' Clausen said. ''Obviously you get a whole entire playbook, but a lot of the plays in the playbook aren't necessarily the ones you run. So he kind of went through pretty much the whole entire playbook and said, `Hey, you need to know this, this and this.' He really helped me a lot.''
The Bears know just how important the backup spot can be given Cutler's history. He hasn't played a full 16 games since 2009, his first season in Chicago after being acquired from Denver, and he has missed 13 over the past four years.
He sat out five last season, forcing McCown into action, and the veteran performed about as well as anyone could have expected.
He went 3-2 in five starts and appeared in eight games overall, throwing for 1,829 yards with 13 touchdowns and just one interception. It was quite a turn for someone who was coaching high school football in North Carolina when the Bears signed him late in the 2011 season, with Caleb Hanie struggling after Cutler broke his thumb and the team in a freefall.
Now, the Bears are wondering: Can Palmer or Clausen be this season's McCown?
They're looking at one guy (Palmer) who has attempted just 15 passes since he entered the league in 2008 and another (Clausen) who flopped in Carolina. Clausen completed 52.5 percent of his passes and threw for 1,558 yards as a rookie with the Panthers, but he also threw three times as many interceptions (nine) as touchdowns (three).
Carolina then drafted Cam Newton with the No. 1 pick in 2011, and Clausen hasn't played since then. His four-year rookie contract with the Panthers expired after last season, which he spent on the waived/injured list because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
He has dealt with questions about his attitude over the years, just like Cutler, but he's getting another opportunity with the Bears.
''A lot of people say different things about me or different guys on the team or Jay or whoever it may be,'' Clausen said. ''But until you get to really know that person, then you can make your own judgment.''
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