The Chicago Bears defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 34-28 on Friday night in their first preseason game of the season. There were plenty of storylines headed into the game, but what was most eye-opening was the position battle for second-string quarterback.
Most experts saw Jimmy Clausen as nothing more than token competition for Jordan Palmer, who has a year in head coach Marc Trestman’s system already and heading into camp, and seemed poised to take the second-string position behind Jay Cutler, with rookie David Fales being kept on as the third-stringer.
After the victory over Philadelphia, Clausen has proven to be far more than a token anything. He appeared to be poised in the pocket, made smart decisions and showed some mobility, scrambling for a 16-yard gain and a first down on a third and six play where an incomplete pass would have forced a punt. He followed that up by hitting Micheal Spurlock for a 22-yard touchdown on the next play.
What might have been most surprising about Clausen’s play was his strong, accurate arm, something that was nonexistent during the 2010 season with the Carolina Panthers. He showed off that arm, throwing a strike to Chris Williams down the right sideline that Williams bobbled, but held onto and raced down the sideline for a 73-yard touchdown.
Palmer’s stat line looked solid. His completion percentage was actually better than Clausen’s, but most of his passes were short, and he seemed tentative at times in the pocket. Palmer also was intercepted by Nate Allen on a poor decision when he felt pressure from the Eagles’ defensive front.
It’s not that Palmer was terrible, but Clausen looked to be a much improved quarterback from the one we saw four years ago in Carolina. The Bears’ next preseason game is this Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Trestman needs to give Clausen the second-quarter snaps to see if his first game was a fluke, or if Clausen has as much control of this offense as he appeared to last Friday.
Although nothing is ever determined after one preseason game, Clausen’s performance proved that his competition with Palmer is far from over.