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4 position battles to watch during Bears camp

Chicago Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen (8) throws pass during NFL football practice Lake Forest Ill. Wednesday June 11 2014. (AP

Chicago Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen (8) throws a pass during NFL football practice in Lake Forest, Ill., Wednesday, June 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: ILNH101

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Backing up Jay

It once was thought that Jordan Palmer had a strong, if not insurmountable, hold on the backup job behind quarterback Jay Cutler. But Palmer’s shoulder injury and Jimmy Clausen’s late arrival altered everything.

Clausen, a former Notre Dame star, comes with a pedigree and more NFL experience. He was more of an observer than a participant during organized team activities and still earned a room for camp.

Clausen won over Cutler and coach Marc Trestman in the quarterbacks room, a factor that shouldn’t be overlooked. The backup job seems his to lose now.

‘‘That room is hugely important,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘The chemistry, the karma — whatever you want to call it — the communication has got to be good. Jimmy has done a very good job, very maturely fit in.’’

Josh McCown’s success last season in the first run of Trestman’s offense and Cutler’s injury history only add drama to the competition.

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Updated: July 23, 2014 10:07AM



As coach Marc Trestman often says, the Bears didn’t ‘‘anoint’’ any starters during their offseason work, especially when it comes to their most compelling position battles. The real work begins when training-camp practices start Friday in Bourbonnais and intensifies when the pads are put on Sunday. With much to be settled, here are four competitions we’ll be watching closely:

BACKING UP JAY

It once was thought that Jordan Palmer had a strong, if not insurmountable, hold on the backup job behind quarterback Jay Cutler. But Palmer’s shoulder injury and Jimmy Clausen’s late arrival altered everything.

Clausen, a former Notre Dame star, comes with a pedigree and more NFL experience. He was more of an observer than a participant during organized team activities and still earned a room for camp.

Clausen won over Cutler and coach Marc Trestman in the quarterbacks room, a factor that shouldn’t be overlooked. The backup job seems his to lose now.

‘‘That room is hugely important,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘The chemistry, the karma — whatever you want to call it — the communication has got to be good. Jimmy has done a very good job, very maturely fit in.’’

Josh McCown’s success last season in the first run of Trestman’s offense and Cutler’s injury history only add drama to the competition.

SAFETY IN NUMBERS?

Veteran Adrian Wilson, a late signee, might not be in his Pro Bowl prime, but he still will push Ryan Mundy, who was locked in at strong safety throughout the offseason work.

Three-year starter Chris Conte’s return from shoulder surgery might not happen during camp, but his goal is to be ready at some point in the preseason. When he does come back, the onus will be on rookie Brock Vereen and former Packer M.D. Jennings to hold him off at the free-safety spot.

But could a starting pair of Wilson and Mundy emerge as an option during camp?

‘‘The more guys you add to the mix, the more competition there’s going to be,’’ defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. ‘‘It’ll be a fluid situation.’’

LINING UP THE ’BACKERS

In his revamped and retooled defense, coordinator Mel Tucker might have enough jobs and snaps to make D.J. Williams, Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin happy alongside Lance Briggs. But that doesn’t mean Williams, Bostic and McClellin won’t do everything they can to show that their snaps make the defense work best.

All three have different skills. McClellin can rush the passer, Bostic excels in coverage and Williams is strong against the run.

Second-year man Khaseem Greene also has impressed his coaches this offseason.

‘‘It’s a fight, a battle,’’ linebackers coach Reggie Herring said. ‘‘The way they have responded is the way you want them to as a coach.’’

SPECIAL OPENINGS

Coordinator Joe DeCamillis has to find replacements for two longtime stalwarts on the Bears’ special teams: returner Devin Hester (Atlanta Falcons) and long snapper Patrick Mannelly (retired).

Chad Rempel, a former Olympic bobsledder, and Brandon Hartson will snap away to replace Mannelly, who was the longest-tenured player in Bears history. But replacing Hester should make for a show, with Eric Weems, Chris Williams, Micheal Spurlock, Armanti Edwards and Michael Ford all expected to get their shots during camp and in exhibition games.

None of them can do what Hester did. Is returner-by-committee an option?



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