The preseason always produces players who come out of nowhere to captivate fanbases.
Last year, that player was hometown hero Jack Sanborn, who actually got a chance to prove his worth during the regular season last year and didn’t disappoint.
Two seasons ago, Rodney Adams lit up opposing defenses in the exhibition contests before spending most of the year on the practice squad (following a rather cruel one-day stint on the 53-man roster).
Going back further, do Tanner Gentry or Ryan Nall ring a bell? How about Dane Sanzenbacher?
This year, that player is, without a shadow of a doubt, Tyson Bagent.
Bagentmania has taken over the Windy City, and the 23-year-old has earned the high praise he’s received. Reports from training camp indicate that the University of Shepherd product looked much better than an undrafted rookie, and he has backed up that notion during the exhibition contests.
He didn’t get on the field until the fourth quarter against the Titans but still impressed in limited action. On his first drive under center, the Bears coaching staff elected to go for a 4th-and-7 from their own 44. While this moment would have been too big for most undrafted rookies, Bagent was calm under pressure and threw a strike down the right sideline to Daurice Fountain, who made an equally impressive catch for a 25-yard gain. Even in a preseason game, that amount of poise is uncommon for undrafted rookie quarterbacks.
The coaching staff certainly took notice of his performance, as he was the first quarterback in the second exhibition contest against the Colts (leaping Nathan Peterman). Once again, he justified the coaching staff’s decision by playing lights out against Indy. Following two disappointing drives led by projected backup P.J. Walker, he promptly gave the Bears life and immediately led the team on a 17-play, 92-yard drive, which was capped off with a two-yard run by… You guessed it, Tyson Bagent. He also completed 9 of 10 passes for 76 yards, drastically outplaying Walker, who went one for four with only six yards.
While no one expected Bagent to perform as well as he has, his performances become a little bit less surprising when you consider he has more passing touchdowns than anyone in college football history, with 159. Interestingly, the player who previously held that record was Case Keenum, who also vastly exceeded expectations throughout his career, starting 64 games after going undrafted in 2012. Bagent’s experience under center certainly aided his development, as he seems to have a solid grasp of the Bears’ rather complex offensive system.
Preseason hype aside, Bagent has only proven that he can make plays against backups and players who will be competing on practice squads in the coming weeks. However, it is possible to be realistic without diminishing how he has performed. He has drastically outperformed expectations thus far, and it’s only fair to give him his flowers (and potentially the backup QB job). With that said, the Bears would not be in a better spot with Bagent under center, and anyone who actually believes otherwise is, for lack of a better term, a hater.
Like many of the players mentioned in the opening paragraph of this piece, the odds of Bagent making a significant impact beyond August are slim, especially with Fields at the helm on the brink of a potential breakout season. This is Fields’ team, and there is no doubt about it. However, if Bagent continues to look poised under pressure and keeps the offense humming in the preseason, he will get his chance at some point.
When analyzing the Bears quarterback room, it is also impossible to disregard the elephant in the room. Quarterbacks who use their legs are more susceptible to injury. Even if Fields protects himself as well as he possibly can, he is still getting hit more than signal-callers who make their living standing in the pocket. He missed multiple games in each of his first two seasons, and the Bears prioritized the backup quarterback spot in the offseason, signing P.J. Walker to a two-year, $4 million deal.
While Walker signed to be the Bears’ backup, it would not be surprising if Bagent is the first one off the bench if he has another strong showing in the Bears’ third preseason game. Every team is looking for their Brock Purdy. It seems like the Bears might’ve gotten theirs for free… Here’s to hoping Chicago’s version of Trey Lance works out in their favor.