BOURBONNAIS — With the Bears back on the field Monday morning for another practice session in full gear, here are three observations with a focus on the backup quarterback competition, the immediate impact of defensive end Lamarr Houston and the development of second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson.
Jordan Palmer vs. Jimmy Clausen
After watching both veteran quarterbacks, I would give the early edge to Clausen.
- Bio | Recent columns
- VIDEO: Video: Campbell, Wiederer on Cutler's evolution
VOTE: Who will be the Bears' backup QB?
- STORY: Logjam in battle for backup running back
Olivet Nazarene University, 1 University Avenue, Bourbonnais, IL 60914, USA
Halas Hall, Washington Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045, USA
Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
The former Notre Dame star hasn't been perfect, but he throws a cleaner ball than Palmer while also showing the ability to drive his throws through second-level windows.
Plus, Clausen is willing to take some chances down the field to test the top of the defense.
Looking at Palmer, his decision-making needs to be quicker in the pocket and I believe he can be much more aggressive by avoiding the check-down option to work the ball to his intermediate targets versus both zone and man defenses.
Given that neither Clausen nor Palmer have thrown a pass since the 2010 season (with sixth-round rookie David Fales likely penciled in to the No. 3 role this year), the Bears could still add a veteran to solidify the No. 2 spot behind starter Jay Cutler.
However, if the Bears don't go outside of the organization to address the backup job, the coaching staff's grades from the early exhibition schedule will be vital to filling out a depth chart that is anything but settled.
Lamarr Houston's impact
During practice, Houston's versatility shows up in both the base and sub-package fronts in Mel Tucker's defense.
The veteran free-agent addition has the ability to lock down the edge as a defensive end in the 4-3 front or slide inside to the defensive tackle position when the Bears bring their nickel personnel onto the field.
However, this early in camp, I'm more focused on the impact Houston can bring from a physical perspective to a defensive front that was beaten up during the 2013 season.
Houston is quick to deliver a violent strike at the point of attack, he is active with his hands and he will hold the gap.
That's crucial against the run game (Power O, Counter OF, Zone) when the defensive end is asked to set the edge of the formation, disengage and find the football.
A player that displays a high-energy level during competitive one-on-one sessions and team drills; Houston is a clear upgrade for the defense.
Marquess Wilson's development
The Bears have one of the top receiving combinations in the league when breaking down the size and skill sets of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
But don't forget about Wilson's role as he continues to develop as the No.3 receiver on the roster.
Wilson's dedication to offseason training is evident on the field in terms of the size (or bulk) he had added to his 6-foot-4 frame along with his ability to run cleaner routes from a variety of alignments on the field.
A very fluid athlete, Wilson doesn't have elite lateral quickness, but he has improved his release points at the line of scrimmage along with his footwork at the top of the route stem when coming back downhill to the football.
Based off the formations the Bears are running at practice, Wilson will align in the slot, as the point man in a bunch set (receiver on the line of scrimmage) or outside of the numbers when Marc Trestman sends 11/Posse personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) onto the field.
The young receiver has been impressive in camp and there are very positive signs of his development on display.
Special contributor Matt Bowen spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. He covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.