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Bears' Six-Pack Keys to Victory: Preseason Week 4, Cleveland Browns

Heading into the final preseason game, we're offering a look at some of the position battles at stake on Thursday night against the Browns.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Seems like an annual tradition to hook up with the Cleveland Browns for the final preseason game of the year. Which is fine; after all, you're just playing backups against backups, no one's going to learn anything schematically, and half of the guys playing are going to be looking for other employment (an unfortunate side effect of NFL cutdown days).

So with that in mind, and keeping the knowledge that we'll see starters for all of... five seconds, if that, let's instead check out some of the final position battles heading into that final game.

1) Offensive Tackle

Is J'Marcus Webb going to play his way off the team? If you're keeping eight offensive linemen, you're looking at possibly James Brown as the swing guard, could be Eben Britton as the swing tackle, and Jonathan Scott if he's healthy (and set to play next week). Does that squeeze Webb out? Or do the Bears keep nine linemen and all of the above? Webb took the pay cut to attempt to keep his spot, but hope for him is fading fast, as he's been inconsistent and making the same mistakes we've seen him make for three years.

2) Linebacker

Lance Briggs, four offseason additions, and Blake Costanzo are pretty well set to head into the season, which means J.T. Thomas is probably gone unless the Bears really like what they see from him. If they keep seven, do you keep Thomas, or do you go with Patrick Trahan or Jerry Franklin (who had an interception in Friday night's game)?

3) Cornerback

At this point, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are rock solid (duh) and Isaiah Frey may well have played his way into it. But behind them is a massive muddle. Zackary Bowman's leg injury may have lost him the starting nickel back job, but will he stick on the team? Sherrick McManis' special teams role will probably keep him on and that would make five with Bowman, but could the Bears opt to keep a youngster? Demontre Hurst looked pretty good in game one against the Panthers and C.J. Wilson earned himself an interception on Friday night.

4) Safety

Does Brandon Hardin have a spot on the 2013 Bears? The recently-cut Tom Zbikowski wasn't exactly playing his way into a spot, but neither was Hardin, who's made a few decent plays this preseason but has largely disappointed. Do the Bears go with four safeties and cut Hardin loose, or can he hold on to a roster spot?

5) Defensive End

I've thoroughly enjoyed watching Cornelius Washington this preseason, so much so that I think he'll get a lot of playing time against the Browns. If he earns himself a roster spot, he'll mostly be thrown in on those nickel/pass rush packages, but I'm not sure how the Bears can get away with putting him on waivers. Better him on the team than the recently-cut Kyle Moore or Aston Whiteside, anyway.

6) Wide Receiver

You knew this was coming. Marquess Wilson started hot, and made a couple nice plays on Friday night, and I'll be surprised if he's not the first one out of the gates against the Browns. The Bears want to see him get snaps to further evaluate him, and so far he's done enough that I think he gets a roster spot. The problem is it's still going to be a hard cut to keep him.

Bonus) Running Back and Quarterback

Just a couple brief notes... I don't think Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards are competing for a roster spot. But it might be a situation where the players come in, get familiar, and then are more or less on call should a "situation" arise. Which means hopefully they aren't in a Bears uniform.

And Michael Ford should get plenty of opportunities to earn his spot, not only as a 3rd running back but also on special teams. Armando Allen does the little things better than Ford, but Ford's a better pure runner with the ball.


Speaks for itself.