Bears

Bears expect to face Seahawks with Jimmy Clausen as starting QB

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Bears expect to face Seahawks with Jimmy Clausen as starting QB

The Bears brought Jimmy Clausen back to Chicago this past offseason because of his familiarity with head coach John Fox.

Now, Fox may have to rely on that familiarity sooner that he probably would have hoped.

Clausen, who struggled to a 1-9 record as a rookie with the Carolina Panthers under Fox in 2010, replaced Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who suffered a hamstring injury late in the second half of Sunday's 48-23 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Afterward, Clausen's teammates were already talking as if he will be the team's starter against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3.

"Jimmy just has to come in and fill in that role," Bears wide receiver Josh Bellamy said. "We don't expect any fallout. We expect Jimmy to come in and do the same thing Jay would do."

[MORE BEARS: Jay Cutler's 'competitiveness' leads to hamstring injury]

Tight end Martellus Bennett is already looking forward to having a full week of practice with Clausen.

"We're going to catch a lot of balls from Jimmy during the week," Bennett said. "We're going to run a lot of routes with him so he has to get familiar with our timing.

"He handled it well and I'm looking forward to working with him this week to get ready for the Seahawks."

This won't be the first time that Clausen, who went 14-of-23 for 121 yards and an interception in relief of Cutler on Sunday, could be tasked with replacing Cutler as the starter in Chicago, albeit under different circumstances in 2015.

Clausen hadn't seen any regular-season playing time since 2010 when the Bears started him in place of Cutler, a performance-based benching from then head coach Marc Trestman, against the Detroit Lions in Week 15 last season. Against the league's No. 2-ranked scoring defense, Clausen completed 23-of-39 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears' loss.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

"It's always an opportunity when you step on the field," Clausen said. "If you're a backup or third-string guy, it's just an opportunity to go out there and improve, get better and make the team go. That's the job of the quarterback to get the team rolling and move the chains and put touchdowns on the board."

Would the offense expect a drop-off from Cutler to Clausen?

"The bark is different," Bennett said. "Their throws are different. The plays that we run with him are different. It's just a lot of little things. Nothing super major, but just getting familiar with him behind us."

However, there is one area that sets the quarterbacks apart in Bennett's mind. 

"Jay has better hair."

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Before Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey met with the media on Wednesday, Allen Robinson was curious what his position coach would say about him in public. 

“I just told him, I don’t know you,” Furrey quipped. “Who’s Allen Robinson?”

Furrey, of course, knows who Robinson is. But the point behind that joke is that Furrey, the Bears’ court wide receivers coach in four years, is still getting to know all of his receivers — let alone the one who hasn’t participated in a practice yet. For all the positivity that's easy to find around Halas Hall these days, the Bears' biggest offseason acquisition hasn't taken a rep yet. 

The good news for the Bears, of course, is that Robinson’s past play speaks for itself. He combined for 153 catches, 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, and has been adamant he’ll return to that high level of play when he’s cleared to practice. The Bears were confident enough in Robinson’s medicals to guarantee him a little over $25 million in March, per Spotrac, about a month before they let Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints largely over medical concerns (Meredith’s torn ACL was viewed as more serious than Robinson’s, in short). 

So the getting-to-know-you phase for Furrey and Robinson is largely taking place off the field in the meeting rooms of Halas Hall. 

“What a great young man,” Furrey said. “He’s come in here, obviously, rehabbing and doing all those things. But he’s alert, he comes to meetings, he’s ready to go. Really, really smart, you can tell that from the beginning and he’s a professional.”

What Furrey, in particular, likes about Robinson is that he’s an “alpha,” but is far more than all talk and no action. 

“And a lot of times that alpha talks a lot and they don’t really put it out there,” Furrey said. “He kind of has that alpha quietness to him. He understands what’s going on, you can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level. Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.”

The expectation all along has been for Robinson to be cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. So while coach Matt Nagy said last week Robinson is “ahead of the game,” that may not mean he takes part in the final round of OTAs next week or veteran minicamp the first week of June. 

But while Robinson can’t prove himself to his new coaches on the field yet, he’s doing the right things off the field to make a positive first impression. 

“He knows you gotta come in early, he knows you gotta be the last one to leave, he knows you gotta study,” Furrey said. “It doesn’t matter five years in, six years in, you gotta take notes. It doesn’t matter if you hear it 10 times, you just gotta keep taking notes. He’s been really good at that, and I’ve been really impressed with that. I’ve been able to get on the field with him a little bit, just kind of throwing some balls to him, and I didn’t know he was that big. But obviously we’re excited for it to happen out there.” 

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Mitch Trubisky has been set up for a huge season in 2018 with all the firepower the Chicago Bears added on offense. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will give the second-year quarterback a variety of explosive targets to generate points in bunches.

None of the headline-grabbing moves will matter, however, if the offensive line doesn't do its job. 

According to Numberfire.com, the Bears' starting five could be the offense's Achilles heel. They were ranked 21st in the NFL and described as poor in pass protection.

Last year, the Bears ranked 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate. These issues were especially apparent after Trubisky took over. In the games that [Kyle] Long played, their sack rate was 8.2%. It was actually 7.2% in the games that he missed. They struggled even when Long was healthy.

The Bears added Iowa's James Daniels in the second round of April's draft and he's expected to start at guard alongside Long. Cody Whitehair will resume his role as the starting center, with Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie at offensive tackle.

If Long comes back healthy and Daniels lives up to his draft cost, they should be a good run-blocking team from the jump. But Long has played just 18 games the past two years and is entering his age-30 season, so that's far from a lock. On top of that, the pass blocking was suspect last year and remains a mystery entering 2018.

The biggest addition to the offensive line is Harry Hiestand, the accomplished position coach who returns to Chicago after once serving in the same role under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. He most recently coached at Notre Dame and helped develop multiple first-round picks. He's going to have a huge impact.

The good news for the Bears is they weren't the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFC North. The Vikings came in at No. 25. The Packers checked-in at No. 13, while the Lions were 16th.