LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)Undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent will start at quarterback for the Chicago Bears when they host Las Vegas on Sunday with Justin Fields recovering from a dislocated right thumb.
The Raiders will also be going with a backup quarterback, with all signs pointing to veteran Brian Hoyer replacing the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Las Vegas’ other option is rookie Aidan O’Connell.
Both starters left games last week. Fields got hurt when he was sacked early in the third quarter against Minnesota. Chicago (1-5) lost for the 15th time in 16 games, falling 19-13 to the Vikings. Garoppolo missed the second half of a 21-17 win over New England with a back injury.
Bagent, who went undrafted last spring after a record-setting career at Division II Shepherd University in West Virginia, is ready for his opportunity. He said he and his dad, Travis, had a feeling early on that he would play in the NFL. But he wasn’t sure he would get a chance to start again after his final college game.
“I was talking to a good buddy of mine,” he said. “We were kind of talking about, hey, no matter how good or bad this goes at the next level, there is a very big chance that maybe you make the team but you might never get to start a game ever again in your whole life. You may never get that QB1 role ever again. That’s just kind of how the apple falls from the tree sometimes.”
Bagent took over for Fields last week and completed 10 of 14 passes for 83 yards in his debut. He ran for a 1-yard touchdown. But he also committed two turnovers.
In college, Bagent put up huge numbers.
He set the NCAA’s all-division record with 159 career touchdown passes, and finished with more completions (1,400) and yards passing (17,034) than any other Division II quarterback. In 2021, he won the Harlon Hill Trophy, Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman.
As for the Raiders, Hoyer came off the bench last week to throw for 102 yards on 6-of-10 passing. O’Connell, a rookie from Purdue, started in a Week 4 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers when Garoppolo was sidelined with a concussion. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 238 yards, but lost two fumbles, threw an interception and was sacked seven times.
Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby said he was excited to play at Soldier Field and he brought up Doug Atkins, a Hall of Fame defensive end who played for the Bears from 1955 to 1966.
“You guys (media) probably don’t even know about Doug Atkins, but he was way back in the day,” Crosby said. “Six-foot-eight, hurdling guys. Just an unbelievable defensive lineman in this league. He’s definitely the guy that’s going to be in my mind when I get out there and play.”
Crosby said he and Rod Marinelli used to talk about football history when Marinelli was the Raiders’ defensive coordinator in 2020. The two remain in contact nearly daily. Marinelli was the Bears’ defensive line coach in 2009 and their coordinator from 2010 to 2012.
Chicago’s Cody Whitehair has started all 113 games he has played in over eight seasons, be it at left guard or center, and has a Pro Bowl selection on his resume.
But after struggling with snaps last week in a move back to center from left guard, he could be in a backup role. Coach Matt Eberflus hinted at changes this week, saying, “We’re working through those things right now.”
Whitehair was penciled in as the starting center this year, only to move to left guard when Teven Jenkins suffered a leg injury a few weeks before the opener. Jenkins returned last week and Whitehair was back at center. But he got benched in favor of Lucas Patrick in the second half after several bad snaps.
“I take a lot of pride in my work,” Whitehair said. “Any time things aren’t going your way, you’ve got to dive in and dissect where you’re going wrong. That’s what I’m in right now.”
BUYERS AT THE DEADLINE?
The Raiders, who have won back-to-back games to get to 3-3, have the chance to put themselves in playoff position during what is the weakest part of their schedule.
If they take advantage of the opportunity, they could be buyers at the trade deadline on Oct. 31. Coach Josh McDaniels, however, said those discussions are limited to the front office.
“I’m going to be in my lane here, and if (general manager Dave Ziegler) needs to honk the horn and we need to pull over to the side of the road and have a conversation, then we will,” McDaniels said.
Bears receiver DJ Moore is no stranger to quarterback switches. He experienced his share during his five seasons with Carolina, and was asked what he can do to make Bagent’s job easier.
“Just get open faster,” he said. “Do what I been doing. Probably just talk to him about what I see on the sideline and see what he’s thinking and how we can execute and be on the same page.”
The Bears’ defense will try to build on a solid effort. Chicago gave up a season-low 220 yards and held Minnesota to 2 of 13 on third downs.
AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL