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

Competition 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.

SHARE Bears’ QB2 battle pits Tyson Bagent’s ‘moxie’ vs. P.J. Walker’s savvy
Chicago Bears v Indianapolis Colts

Bears quarterback Tyson Bagent stands at the line of scrimmage Saturday.

Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Some preseason finales come with phony storylines. Coaches ramble on about open jobs that, for all practical purposes, are already 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 be their second-string quarterback — isn’t one of those stories. There’s 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 Bagent, an undrafted free agent from Division II Shepherd University.

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

It has as much to do with Walker struggling — he has a 14.6 passer rating in two preseason games and hasn’t been sharp in practice — as it does with Bagent looking comfortable. Perhaps the Bears are simply hoping Bagent gives Walker the jolt he needs. Walker started seven games for the Panthers over the last three years and could offer starter Justin Fields the benefit of experience in a way Bagent can’t. He’s still the favo-rite for the No. 2 job, in part because he’s owed $2 million in guarantees, and he could simplify roster construction and help the coaching staff sleep easier if he can make an emphatic statement on the field Saturday.

In any case, it’s someone’s job for the taking.

“If you keep an open mind and you let things play out, then good things will happen,” Eberflus 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 Saturday to take Fields’ place. It was another indignity for Walker. Eberflus being asked the question at all, much less refusing to answer it, is a sign of how poorly his training camp has gone.

“Looking at PJ, 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 leader in touchdown passes, hasn’t been cowed. In two games, he has gone 13-for-15 for 113 yards, a 98.1 passer rating and the Bears’ only rushing touchdown of the preseason. If he plays well against the Bills, the Bears might have no choice but to keep him; putting up good game film two weeks in a row could catch the attention of teams putting in waiver claims after final cuts Tuesday.

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

Bagent isn’t surprised by his strong showing in camp. His coaches might be.

“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. In fact, he has muted his social-media mentions.

“That’s where I’m at — kind of 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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