Typically, the fourth preseason game is one you can skip. Unless of course you really love bad football and have an interest in which players will make the team for their special teams prowess. Otherwise, there usually aren’t many reasons to tune in.
Tomorrow, however, presents us with the opportunity to see more of Mitchell Trubisky before the Bears put him on the shelf, at least temporarily. So for those of us who were hoping to see some more of the rookie quarterback, this is the chance.
Of course, this is cherry on top for us fans. The reality is that Trubisky will likely play no more than the first quarter. So we will need to focus on the other players who are fighting for a roster spot. Many of these players have already played a lot of special team but it will be their ability to contribute on offense or defense now, or in the future, that will be the deciding factor for the coaching staff.
Without further adieu, let’s take a look at what I will be focusing on most Thursday night as the Bears host the Cleveland Browns.
What to Watch For
On offense, I will, of course by watching Trubisky. My guess is that we won’t see a whole lot of passing attempts but I would like to not see a stumble or botched snap. I also want to see the offense run smooth and efficient, then get him out of the game. My guess is that we will see a battle at wide receiver with Victor Cruz, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Tanner Gentry and Titus Davis for roster spots. Another battle to watch will be between Daniel Brown and Ben Braunecker. I am guessing that 4 tight ends will make the roster, the fourth spot comes down to these two.
Defensively, this is going to come down to a few positions. I think that the defensive line and outside linebackers are already set. The competition is going to come down to the inside linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties. John Timu and Jon Anderson are battling again but one of them is likely not going to make the team. For the cornerback spot, I think this comes down to special teams. Can the Bears afford to keep a player like Sherrick McManis or will the look for defensive upside with someone like B.W. Webb or Johnthan Banks? Safety is where things get the most interesting. It seems like Quintin Demps, Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos are locks. Will the Bears roll with 4 or 5 safeties? There are 3 2016 draft picks fighting for potentially one roster spot.
Who to Watch
William Poehls (#78): Poehls has played all over the line so far in the preseason. What has been interesting to me is that he has been the first offensive lineman off the bench to fill in at right guard. Poehls may have played himself into a similar role as a swing lineman that Eric Kush had prior to his injury. I will be watching to see if the team asks him to play tackle and how he looks there. If he comes out of the game early, we can make a safe assumption that he likely made the team.
Jeremy Langford (#33): Langford got his first game action last week and looked pretty good. He desperately needs reps and to get his feet back under him and into football shape. I don’t expect him to play a lot but I would like to see him get maybe 5-7 touches to keep sharp before the lights go on.
The Bubble Receivers: With Cameron Meredith’s injury, there is an extra spot on the roster for a wide receiver. I would guess that Kevin White, Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton are all locks to make the roster. That likely leaves 3 open slots for players to make the team. Deonte Thompson (#14) versus Joshua Bellamy (#15) for the special teamer is going to be a good battle. Titus Davis (#2) and Tanner Gentry (#19) could be locked into a battle of the up-and-comer. Then there’s Victor Cruz (#80). He seems to be falling out of favor. I will be curious to see how much time he sees.
Daniel Brown (#85) versus Ben Braunecker (#84): This is an interesting battle. Braunecker seems to hold the edge in special teams, and given the depth in front of him, this could be a valuable commodity for this team. Brown definitely holds the edge as a receiver and blocker though. I will be curious if the team makes a concerted effort to get the ball to these two players in order to make a final determination. Braunecker also has practice squad eligibility but I do not believe Brown does.
John Timu (#53) versus Jonathan Anderson (#58): These two have been battling since they were both signed as undrafted free agents following the 2015 draft. Anderson is the more athletic of two and offers some solid coverage skills. Timu on the other hand seems to be the headier player of the two. He makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage despite his limited athleticism.
The Cornerbacks: By my count, the Bears seem to have Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Kyle Fuller, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Bryce Callahan as locks to make the roster. Special teams could be the key here but given the injury history of several of these players, I am not sure you can keep a player like Sherrick McManis (#27) who doesn’t offer any value on defense. B.W. Webb (#30) seems to have made a few plays but can he fill a role on special teams? Johnthan Banks (#35) is a player that could excel on defense and has been well on special teams. He also has the length that Vic Fangio covets.
The Safeties: Deon Bush (#26) has not done a whole lot to earn a spot on the team, in my opinion, but then again, neither have several other safeties he is battling with. DeAndre Houston-Carson (#36) has played well for the most part and does offer special teams value, as well as the fact that he plays free safety. The wildcard here is Dieondre’ Hall (#32). Hall was switched over to free safety in the off-season and hasn’t stood out but also hasn’t made any mistakes. The reason I think he is a wildcard is that he has the skill-set to play cornerback should there be injuries. That is the kind of versatility that teams covet and could be enough to win the last spot.
This is going to be a difficult game to watch at times, with a relatively low level of competition, but there are still things to assess. Who and what are you all looking for in the last preseason game?
As always, Bear Down!