Even the die-hard NFL fans may have trouble watching the final preseason game of their respected team. Almost no starting or relevant players even step foot onto the field during game-time, but nonetheless this was a huge game for the 20+ players on the verge of getting cut over this upcoming weekend.
The Chicago Bears have some very intriguing roster battles going on, and although none of them are necessarily for starting positions, these are players that very well may have a big impact on the team's success as they prepare for the regular season opener September 9th in Chicago against the Indianapolis Colts.
The Bears came out with an assortment of third-string players and others deeper on the depth chart looking to make the team. The offensive line played well overall, with offensive guard Ricky Henry showing some aggressiveness and bulk to add depth at the guard position. Left tackle James Brown also looked impressive. The Bears offensive line did not allow a sack all night.
Third-string quarterback Josh McCown played the entire game Thursday evening in Cleveland. There was some debate amongst the Bears faithful that the Bears should have invested in rookie quarterback Matt Blanchard as their third quarterback.
It simply came down to McCown outplaying Blanchard in Week 1 of the preseason and McCown's veteran savvy has been noted by starting quarterback Jay Cutler.
McCown looked solid overall against the Browns going 20-for-29 with 157 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Although he may never see the field during the regular season, he will provide a solid, veteran presence on the Bears' sideline.
One of the key roster battles offensively is the battle for third-string running back, as discussed in this detailed analysis of the Bears depth chart. It's between Lorenzo Booker and Armando Allen, after running back Kahlil Bell was released last week.
These two running backs are very similar in their style of play, as well as their size. Booker is 5-foot-10, 201 pounds and Allen is 5-foot-8, 199 pounds. It was a very productive and interesting night for both of them.
Booker looked more like a typical running back. He ended the game with 81 yards rushing on 15 carries and he added four receptions for 16 yards. He left the game early in the 4th quarter with an apparent head injury.
Allen only rushed the for 34 yards on 15 carries, until he burst out with a 49-yard run late in the game, finishing with 83 yards on 16 carries. He also had an uncanny 51 yards receiving on five receptions, including one touchdown grab.
Allen also made some plays on special teams with two tackles and one forced fumble. Booker's injury certainly may play a role in which back makes the team, but both of them played exceptionally well tonight and either would provide the Bears with a quality third-string running back with great speed and agility.DEFENSE
The Bears' defense was also lacking any starting caliber player on the field tonight; however, there were some great performances by players looking to make that 53-man roster.
Linebacker Xavier Adibi had a great game, showing some quickness with his bulky, linebacker frame.
Adibi did leave the game with a head injury, but he did record six tackles with a sack and helped shut down the Browns' offense throughout much of the first half.
The battle at defensive tackle was also worth watching tonight. Brian Price was out there creating penetration and getting to the ball carrier. Unfortunately, Price left the game early in the second half with a head injury.
Fellow defensive tackle Nate Collins played well, but he did not have any big plays tonight. It's tough to say what the Bears will do with Price. They traded for him at the beginning of training camp, but his play has been up and down and he has gotten injured almost every week of the preseason.
Other defensive highlights included the play of safety Jeremy Jones and cornerback Greg McCoy. Jones made an outstanding interception in the first half against Browns' former starting quarterback Colt McCoy. Jones started along with fellow safety Mark LeGree, both players being undrafted free agents picked up by the Bears on the waiver wire.
The Bears are lacking depth at the safety position with injuries to Chris Conte and Brandon Hardin, and for more info on that position, check out this article. Both players looked average throughout much of the game, but look for Jones to possibly sneak in on the 53-man roster with the playmaking abilities he showed tonight.
Another impressive player from the Bears' secondary was rookie cornerback Greg McCoy. McCoy was seen all over the field tonight, draping all receivers that came his way. He also had one of the more bizarre plays of the entire preseason. He helped to break up a pass intended for Browns' wide receiver Josh Gordon, and as the ball was descending towards the ground, it clipped Gordon's heel and popped back into McCoy's arms. McCoy alertly sprinted the 15 yards remaining into the end zone.
The officials and players did not notice it at first, but after the Lovie Smith challenge flag was thrown, the officials reversed the call, giving the Bears and McCoy a defensive touchdown. Look for McCoy to make the roster, but he may get more action as a backup to D.J. Moore in the nickel defensive package.
This was a great final preseason game for the Bears because they did well what they preach so often. Play all three phases: Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. In tonight's game, the Bears scored a touchdown in all three phases.
The special teams unit had a very solid evening with a couple of highlight reel plays. Linebacker Patrick Trahan blocked a punt in the third quarter and wide receiver/special team player Brittan Golden picked the ball up and scampered in for another Bears touchdown.
As great as that play was, it was not nearly the highlight of the Bears' special team unit. With incumbent punter Matt Podlesh dealing with a hip flexor injury, it is very likely that he may miss the regular season opener and possibly additional games.
Rookie punter Ryan Quigley showed that he very well may be the guy who can fill in if Podlesh does miss time. Quigley punted the ball four times with an average of 40.3 yards and two balls that were downed inside the opposition's 10-yard line. To add on to those impressive stats, Quigley even recovered a fumble.
It was a great night for the Bears as they finished off the preseason with a 28-20 victory against the Browns, finishing the preseason with a record of 3-1. The battle at running back tonight was as advertised with both Booker and Allen making strong cases for making the team. it was also very nice to see some great play from the backups in the secondary, the linebacker core, and the offensive and defensive lines.
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