With that in mind, let’s take a look at these teams’ respective position groups and see how they compare. Much like last week’s comparison article for the Seattle game, what players we end up seeing and how much we see of them is up in the air at the moment, so some of these groups are bound to change by gameday.
Players to Watch: Justin Fields (CHI), Jacoby Brissett (CLE)
We should get a good look at each team’s projected starters this game. For the Bears, Matt Eberflus confirmed that the starters will get a full half of action. While it is an extremely small sample size, Justin Fields looked sharp in his one drive last week in Seattle, going 5/7 for 39yds, and an 84.8 rating. A full half is by far the most playing time Fields will see this preseason, so it’ll be interesting to see how the sophomore handles his extended playing time.
Meanwhile, Jacoby Brissett is looking to make his preseason debut. Due to Deshaun Watson’s suspension keeping him out of action for 11 games, Brissett suddenly became Cleveland’s projected starter for the majority of their season. Brissett has been consistently solid throughout his career; he probably won’t steal any games away, but he also won’t lose any for you.
Although Fields is a much more unknown commodity at this point in their careers, he’s also shown more explosiveness and the capability to take over games. Combine that with the fact that Brissett is gonna be seeing the gridiron for the first time this preseason, and the advantage here goes to Chicago.
Players to Watch: David Montgomery (CHI), Khalil Herbert (CHI), Nick Chubb (CLE), D’Ernest Johnson (CLE)
This one here largely depends on if one man plays: Nick Chubb.
Chubb has firmly established himself as one of the league’s premier backs over the last couple of seasons. He’s rushed for 1000+ yards each of the past three years, earning three Pro Bowl nods over that time. If he plays, this category easily goes to the Browns.
But he hasn’t played this preseason, at least not yet. If Chubb doesn’t play, this category could swing Chicago’s way… if David Montgomery plays, that is. Like his Cleveland counterpart, Montgomery hasn’t seen live-action this preseason. Week three would be a good bet to see him though if he is healthy and if what Eberflus said about playing his starters rings true.
Going under the assumption both Montgomery and Chubb see the field, Cleveland has the RB advantage. David Montgomery is a great back in his own right, but it is hard to compare to someone as consistently great as Chubb.
Players to Watch: Darnell Mooney (CHI), Equanimeous St. Brown (CHI), David Bell (CLE), Donovan Peoples-Jones (CLE)
Amari Cooper suiting up for the Browns would change this comparison, but that is not likely as he hasn’t played yet this preseason, and the Browns have other WR related things to figure out. Remember though, Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski said most starters would get time against the Bears this week, whether or not that means Cooper is yet to be seen.
David Bell, the 99th pick out of Purdue this past draft, made quite an impression in his preseason debut, reeling in three receptions on four targets for a team-leading 46 yards against the Eagles. The rookie had some buzz surrounding him coming into the draft and will look to further cement his spot on the roster. Donovan Peoples-Jones is also expected to get plenty of chances against the Bears. Currently, it looks like he’ll be WR2 behind Cooper, so this week will be his chance to solidify that role and grow chemistry with Brissett.
But, unless Cooper does play, the Bears hold the advantage in this category as well. Darnell Mooney didn’t make as much noise against the Seahawks this past week as he did against the Chiefs week one, making a single grab for six yards. Despite this, Mooney is still clearly a lethal weapon in the Bears’ arsenal, and a full half this week means he’ll get plenty of time to make his presence felt. Also, watch out for Equanimeous St. Brown to start making plays in the receiving game. With all the injuries and cuttings happening in the Bears’ WR corps, St. Brown has a good opportunity this week to make his case to be WR2.
Advantage: Bears (Unless Cooper Plays)
Players to Watch: Cole Kmet (CHI), David Njoku (CLE)
Neither David Njoku, the Browns’ starting TE, nor his backup Harrison Bryant played against the Eagles last week. But with Stefanski’s recent comments about his starters getting playing time this week, it’s reasonable to believe Njoku will make an appearance. Njoku has been on the cusp of breaking out for a few years now it seems. He had a strong 2018 season, catching for 639 yards; limited playing time then held him to 254 yards between 2019 and ‘20. The former first-round pick put up a respectable 475 yards last year, so the hype train is back in full swing.
His counterpart, Cole Kmet, looked sharp last week against the Seahawks. He might have only made two receptions, but both came at pivotal points on the Bears’ first drive, which kept the offense on the field. Much like Njoku, the breakout buzz is in full effect surrounding Kmet. The difference is that Kmet has arguably looked just as impressive as Njoku in less time and has less wear and tear. Between that and how good Kmet has looked this preseason, he gets the nod here.
Players to Watch: Teven Jenkins (CHI), Sam Mustipher (CHI), Jedrick Wills Jr. (CLE), Michael Dunn (CLE)
To put it bluntly, the Bears’ o-line hasn’t looked great this preseason. All three quarterbacks, but most alarmingly Justin Fields, were on the run a lot last week against a Seattle defense that shouldn’t have been all that intimidating. The opponent doesn’t get any easier this week either if Cleveland decides to start some of their bigger-name defenders. Look out for Teven Jenkins trying to lock up a starter’s spot, as well as Sam Mustipher, who has an opportunity to start with Lucas Patrick injured.
On the flip side, the Browns’ unit has looked pretty solid. None of their QBs were sacked against both Jacksonville and Philadelphia, and the line has done a good job protecting whoever is under center for Cleveland the last few seasons. Third-year player Michael Dunn has garnered some praise this postseason and might post a challenge for some first-string time. Jedrick Wills Jr., also in his third season, is a former top-10 pick and has plenty of starting experience, so he also presents a challenge.
Until the Bears’ line shows some life, it’s hard to say they’re a better group than any other line in the league, especially when it comes to the incredibly solid Browns’ line.
Players to Watch: Robert Quinn (CHI), Trevis Gipson (CHI), Myles Garrett (CLE), Jadeveon Clowney (CLE)
Sorry Bears’ fans, but this isn’t that hard a comparison. Yes, Robert Quinn was very, very good last season, and Trevis Gipson has breakout potential written all over him. But this is Myles Garrett. Not only is he one of the best defensive ends in the league, but he’s also one of the best players, period. Pair him up with another former first overall pick in Jadeveon Clowney, and that’s a recipe for disaster for the Bears’ o-line.
Now Garrett and Clowney's playing isn’t a guarantee, and how much they’ll actually play is a question mark too. But unless they (more specifically Garrett) don’t suit up or only play a drive or so, it’s hard to imagine the Bears’ d-line putting up a better performance.
Players to Watch: Roquan Smith (CHI), Jack Sanborn (CHI), Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (CLE), Anthony Walker Jr. (CLE)
Owusu-Koramoah and Walker headline a strong LB room in Cleveland. It might not be the powerhouse that the Browns’ d-line group is, but the LBs have the potential to be extremely lethal this year, especially with strong performances this preseason from the likes of Dakota Allen and other youngsters.
But they don’t have a Roquan Smith. Smith is finally taking the field for the Bears after his holdout regarding his contract. To say Smith has flourished at the NFL level would be an understatement, as the Georgia alum has become one of the league’s best linebackers. He’s surrounded by a group of young players and new Bears looking to find their role on the team like preseason standout Jack Sanborn and offseason acquisitions Nicholas Morrow and Matt Adams.
The Browns might have a deeper, more well-rounded LB group, but they don’t have the top-end talent of Smith. It’s close, but the Bears narrowly take this category.
Players to Watch: Kyler Gordon (CHI), Jaylon Johnson (CHI), Denzel Ward (CLE), John Johnson III (CLE)
The Browns' secondary group feels like what the Bears’ group could be in a couple of years. Both corps are young, but the Browns have a bit more experience as a whole under their belt. Denzel Ward is a two-time Pro Bowler, John Johnson III established himself with the Rams before coming over to the Browns, and guys like Grant Delpit and Greg Newsome II are both extremely young and filled with potential.
This Bears group could very well reach the same heights, as Jaylon Johnson has already shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker are day one impact starters (or in Brisker’s case, he would be if it wasn’t for an injury), and Eddie Jackson is the proven veteran trying to show he’s still got something in the tank.
For now, though, we haven’t seen enough of Chicago’s secondary to really say how they stack up against the much more proven Browns’ group.
Bears: Four Advantage
- Wide Receivers
- Tight Ends
Browns: Four Advantages
- Offensive Line
- Running Backs
- Defensive Line