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updated: 8/24/2014 9:34 PM

Jimmy Clausen beats Palmer for Bears' backup QB job

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  • Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen, scrambling for yardage in the preseason opener, won the backup job because he is considered to have a much greater upside than Jordan Palmer.

      Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen, scrambling for yardage in the preseason opener, won the backup job because he is considered to have a much greater upside than Jordan Palmer.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Bears' most notable battle for a backup position ended Sunday night when the team terminated the contract of quarterback Jordan Palmer, handing the top backup job to Jimmy Clausen.

The two veterans had nearly identical preseason stats, but the 26-year-old Clausen is 4 years younger than Palmer, showed a stronger arm and more decisiveness during training-camp practices and is considered to have much greater upside.

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Clausen was third and last in the rotation Friday night in the Bears' blowout loss to the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

He played just the fourth quarter after Jay Cutler started and played until halftime, followed by Palmer in the third quarter.

But, despite working with second- and third-team players, Clausen was the only quarterback who put points on the board. He directed a pair of drives that ended with field goals.

"Sometimes you just have to adjust with the guys you have in there and go out and make plays," said Clausen, who completed 6 of 9 passes for 36 yards Friday.

"At the end of the day, you can only control what you can control. It's going out and playing your hardest, practicing your hardest -- that's all I can do."

In this case, that was enough.

Clausen also had an impressive 8-yard dash up the middle to the Seahawks' 2-yard line that could have set up a late TD, but it was called back by a holding infraction on center Taylor Boggs.

Clausen's 16-yard scramble in the opener is the longest Bears run of the preseason.

The 34-6 loss at Seattle, followed by the first wave of cuts, brought a little clarity to some of the Bears' other position battles.

But it might have clouded the picture at other contested spots.

Five-time Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson was eliminated from the crowded house on the back line.

Chris Conte, the starting free safety for the past 2½ seasons, saw his first game action and delivered a bone-rattling hit on Seattle's Luke Wilson that knocked the tight end out of the game.

But that hit also might have been the one that later forced Conte out of the game with a concussion. Conte left after missing badly on an open-field tackle attempt of running back Christine Micheal, the same problem that put him in jeopardy of losing his job.

Ryan Mundy at strong safety and Danny McCray at free safety have started all three preseason games.

It appears Mundy has won a job, but Conte cannot be counted on, depending on the severity of his concussion.

Rookie fourth-rounder Brock Vereen seems like a dark horse for now, but in a group where there have been no standouts, he still could emerge as the winner.

At wide receiver, veteran Josh Morgan has distanced himself from the other contenders. He had 3 catches for a team-best 48 yards at Seattle and has 8 preseason receptions for a team-best 125 yards.

Santonio Holmes played against the Seahawks just six days after signing with the Bears as a free agent who attracted very little attention around the league in the off-season. He caught 1 pass for 7 yards, and coach Marc Trestman noticed his effort.

Holmes also "beat his man on a 'go' route, but we checked it down," Trestman said. "I could see his speed."

Holmes has had past problems on and off the field, but Cutler said he believes the Bears have the kind of environment that Holmes can thrive in.

"I think it's a good sign that we'll take some chances on some guys," Cutler said. "We'll bring some guys in because we know we've got a strong veteran group here and some guys that will help young guys or veteran guys along."

Chris Williams was supposed to be in the race for a backup wide receiver position, but he hasn't played since straining a hamstring on his 73-yard touchdown catch in the preseason opener.

Despite the inactivity, Williams still remains a strong contender for a role in the kick-return game, mostly because everyone else has been so pedestrian.

If there is anyone on the roster with big-play return ability, it's Williams. But he needs to do it in a game, and his last chance is Thursday in Cleveland against the Browns.

He also needs to show better hands catching punts than he did during training camp.

Running back Michael Ford's 30-yard kickoff return is the Bears' longest in the exhibition season, but he was cut Saturday.

Veteran return specialist Darius Reynaud was terminated Sunday, six days after he was signed. He had 1 punt return for zero yards and 2 kickoff returns for 40 yards at Seattle.

The top backup job behind running back Matt Forte figures to go to Ka'Deem Carey, the fourth-round pick from Arizona.

He has 27 carries, more than double anyone else, and has averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. But he caught all 4 passes thrown his way Friday.

Journeyman Shaun Draughn and undrafted Senorise Perry have shown occasional flashes but maybe not enough to move past a draft pick.

In addition to Palmer and Reynaud, the Bears also terminated the contract of vested veteran linebacker Jordan Senn on Sunday night.

Earlier in the day the Bears announced the release of offensive tackle Joe Long.

A day earlier, Ford, wide receivers Greg Herd and Kofi Hughes, cornerbacks Derricus Purdy and Peyton Thompson, defensive tackle Nate Collins and offensive lineman Dylan Gandy were trimmed.

• Follow Bob's Bears and NFL reports on Twitter@BobLeGere.

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