Lions defense could have a big day facing Jimmy Clausen

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Jim Caldwell was asked Thursday morning to compare benched Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to the guy the Detroit Lions will face Sunday -- Jimmy Clausen.

Caldwell called Cutler incredible. He said Clausen was capable. Read into that what you will.

“You know, Cutler is a little different guy,” Caldwell said. “He’s a pretty incredible quarterback just in terms of athleticism, ability and those things. Clausen’s very capable, though.”

This could be a long, long Sunday for Clausen. Even if the Bears do what Caldwell anticipates, which is use Matt Forte way more than they did in his five-carry performance on Thanksgiving, it might not matter.

As long as Detroit’s run defense continues its consistency on early downs and forces Chicago into third-and-long situations, this could be a big day for the Lions defense and a rough day for Clausen.

Consider these things: There’s a reason why Clausen slipped to the second round of the NFL draft. And there’s a reason Carolina gave up on him after a season for Cam Newton. And there’s a reason he hasn’t started an NFL game since his rookie year.

In his only extended playing time, as a rookie with Carolina, he only completed 52.5 percent of his passes. He had six games where his QBR was in single digits. He was sacked an average of 2.5 times per game in his rookie year.

He’s not particularly good under pressure, either. In his rookie year, he was pressured 90 times, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He completed 18 of 57 passes for 215 yards. He was sacked 33 times, threw no touchdowns or interceptions and had a gaudy quarterback rating of 0.3 when pressured.

Then think about the Lions. They made the Chicago offensive line into a turnstile on Thanksgiving, pressuring Cutler, 16 times according to Pro Football Focus. Detroit’s defense sacks quarterbacks on 7.4 percent of their attempts -- 10th in the NFL. Meanwhile, Cutler was sacked 36 times this season, including seven times by New Orleans on Monday night.

Clausen had one good season -- his last one in college, where he completed 68 percent of his passes, threw 28 touchdowns and had only four interceptions. That was with an offense that had seven guys catch passes who would eventually play at least one NFL game (Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, Theo Riddick and Jonas Gray).

And here’s what Caldwell thought about Clausen then.

“Capable, you know. You got what you’re looking for,” Caldwell said. “Accurate guy coming out of college. Good leader and can certainly do exactly what he’s doing now.”

Up until Wednesday, that was sitting behind Cutler on the bench.