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Bears’ QB2 battle pits Tyson Bagent’s ‘moxie’ vs. P.J. Walker’s savvy

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Some preseason finales have phony storylines. Coaches bleat about open jobs that, for practical purposes, have already been filled. They praise players they know will be gone on cut day. Others make the final special teams spot feel like the most critical role in the world.

Rookie Tyson Bagent’s push to make the Bears — and maybe even become their second-string quarterback — isn’t one of those. There is a real competition between P.J. Walker, who was given a two-year, $4 million deal on the premise of being the primary backup, and the undrafted free agent from Division II Shepherd University.

“That’s exciting — and that was created,” head coach Matt Eberflus said Thursday as the Bears prepared to face the Bills at Soldier Field on Saturday. “It wasn’t like [the coaches] created it … That was created by pure competition.”

It was formed as much by Walker struggling — he has a 14.6 passer rating in two preseason games and hasn’t been sharp in practice — as Bagent looking comfortable. 

Perhaps the Bears are simply hoping Bagent gives Walker the jolt he needs. Walker has started seven games over the past three years and could offer Fields the benefit of experience in a way Bagent can’t. In part because he’s owed $2 million in guarantees, Walker is still the favorite for the No. 2 job. Making an emphatic claim Saturday would simplify the Bears’ roster construction — and make the coaching staff sleep easier.

Eberflus, though, swears the job is someone’s for the taking.

“If you keep an open mind and you let things play out, then good things will happen,” he said. “A lot of times I’ve seen that coaches predetermine things a lot of times … 

“We just based it on performances — and we’re going to continue to do that and let the competition play itself out.”

Eberflus refused to say who will come off the bench first to take starter Justin Fields’ place Saturday. It was another indignity for Walker — Eberflus being asked that question, much less refusing to answer it, is a sign of how poorly his training camp has gone.

“Looking at P.J., the things that he’s done well, the things that he hasn’t done well, where he’s struggled, where he’s had success, we’ll form an opinion and an evaluation on him,” quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko said. 

Bagent, the all-time NCAA touchdown passes leader, hasn’t been cowed. In two games, he’s gone 13-for-15 for 113 yards, a 98.1 passer rating and the team’s only rushing touchdown.

If he plays well against the Bills, the Bears might have no choice but to keep him. The rookie putting up good game film two weeks in a row could catch the attention of teams who put in waiver claims after final cuts are made Tuesday.

The Bears won’t worry about such an issue with veteran Nathan Peterman, who leads the team with 173 passing yards. The Bears cut Peterman at this time last year and re-signed him to the practice squad the next day. They can probably do so again.

Bagent is not surprised by his strong training-camp showing. His coaches might be a bit.

“I think he’s shown some poise, I think he’s shown a little bit of moxie to him,” Janocko said. “When you talk to him, he carries himself like somebody that’s very confident in his abilities, and he’s got a little swagger to him.”

He knows the attention awaiting him — he’s muted his social media mentions.

“That’s where I’m at — kinda working tirelessly,” Bagent said. “I know opportunities will present themselves. I try to be as ready as I am for those opportunities.”

There’s one available for him Saturday.



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