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Questions loom for Bears backup QB Blanchard
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Chicago Bears quarterbacks Matt Blanchard (from left), Jason Campbell and Jay Cutler during Thursday's preseason game. (Brian Cassella/Tribune photo / August 15, 2012)
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By Brad Biggs Tribune reporter 12:11 p.m. CDT, August 15, 2012
BOURBONNAIS — It’s premature to speculate whether or not Matt Blanchard will have an opportunity to stick with the Chicago Bears as a fourth quarterback on the practice squad.
But the undrafted rookie free agent from Wisconsin-Whitewater only helped himself in the preseason opener last Thursday against the Denver Broncos. Playing time will likely be harder to come by in the next two exhibitions but he should get ample work in the preseason finale at Cleveland Aug. 30.
Blanchard completed 6 of 7 passes for 53 yards in the loss to the Broncos. He was intercepted once and was sacked three times, the result of holding onto the ball too long. But he showed poise and delivered some nice passes, especially when you consider the reps he’s receiving in training camp have been very limited.
“He handled himself well,” quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said. “I think the big question mark always with a Division II or III quarterback is how do they handle the center stage? Man, he took it right on. I am very proud of him. He is an athletic, smart quarterback that we are excited about and still has room to grow.
“Being the third and the fourth quarterback, and even the second once the season starts, is taking mental reps. That is part of their job because during the season the No. 1 takes every rep so the No. 2 has to understand how to do it. Obviously, he’s been paying attention and not wandering mentally. He gets in there in practices and the game and shows some good signs. We’re excited.”
The question the Bears have to answer for Blanchard when it comes to the practice squad – and it’s a question for every player for the eight-man developmental squad – is what kind of room for growth does he have? A lot of times spots are reserved for players who are needed for practice – extra linemen or guys to fill spots at positions that might be hit by injuries. There will be almost no work on the field for a fourth quarterback once the season begins.
“Right now, we’re just going to work every day both in the classroom and on the practice field,” Bates said. “We’re trying to get better. Everyone is trying to impress their coaches and teammates and what the young guys have to understand that no matter what, when they get on the field in preseason there are going to be 31 other teams, scouts and general managers that are going to watch the tape.
“As a coach, the numbers game is tough but you want to improve every player that you have and give them that opportunity to put good football on tape.”
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