With veteran minicamp coming to a close on Jun. 19, the Chicago Bears receive a much-needed break to recharge before the start of training camp in July at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
During the team’s time of inactivity, we will take a position-by-position look at some of the expected training camp battles and dark horses to make the team, starting with the offense:
Overview: In an attempt to play through an entire regular season for the first time since 2009, Jay Cutler bulked up and added strength in the offseason, according to Bears coach Marc Trestman. That probably needed to happen considering the murky situation behind Cutler on the depth chart.
The Bears took four potential backups to Cutler into minicamp -- Jordan Palmer, Jimmy Clausen, Jerrod Johnson (who has been released) and rookie David Fales. The group, collectively, has completed a total of 167 passes in the regular season, with the bulk of that coming from Clausen (157).
Makes you miss Josh McCown, right?
Battle to watch: Palmer will go into camp as the front-runner to win the backup job, but Clausen should push him if he picks up Chicago’s offense quickly enough. Prior to the team’s Jun. 7 acquisition of Clausen, it appeared Fales -- a sixth-round pick -- posed the most significant threat to Palmer in the competition for the No. 2 job. Now, the Bears will likely try to bring along Fales slowly, and give his repetitions to Clausen, who has more experience than Palmer as a starter in the NFL. So look for Clausen and Palmer to slug it out for the No. 2 job, while Johnson and Fales compete for the No. 3 spot.
“If you’re a free agent, you’re going to be thrown into a situation where you have to learn faster to get up to speed so you can compete. That’s a big challenge for me,” Clausen said. “The quarterbacks are helping me out a lot. The coaching staff is doing a great job helping me, just trying to get me up to speed as soon as possible.”
Dark horse: The Bears invested $114,224 in Fales in the form of a signing bonus, so they might feel inclined to keep him over Johnson. But don’ count out Johnson, who in 2011, was the No. 1 overall pick of the defunct UFL.
Before Johnny Manziel tore it up at Texas A&M, Johnson was the school’s career leader in total offense (8,888 yards) and passing yards (8,011). But Johnson entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles, and hasn’t been able to stick with a team. Johnson has spent time with the Eagles, Steelers and Seahawks, but many don’t realize that a pretty significant shoulder injury at A&M has sort of derailed his career.
“He struggled as a senior at A&M,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said last September. “There were a lot of rumors that he was injured. Talking to him, he was. He’s undergone surgery. He basically relearned to throw the ball. He was impressive out there in terms of his accuracy and the velocity that he had. He has foot movement, and he’s 6-foot-5, 240 pounds. He’s a very engaging young man with a lot of intelligence.”
Who makes the cut: The Bears will likely keep only three quarterbacks on the active roster, which means Cutler, Clausen -- provided he performs in the preseason -- and Palmer would likely make the cut with the club keeping Fales on the practice squad. Johnson is an intriguing talent, but he will likely fall victim to the numbers game.