Preseason Game 4 Preview: Chicago Bears vs Cleveland Browns


In the final preseason contest of 2015, the Chicago Bears will host the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night at Soldier Field. Kickoff is 8 p.m. EST.

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The Bears have looked inconsistent in the preseason, which is to be expected from a team learning new schemes on offense and defense, with some players even learning new positions. Nevertheless, the clock is running before the games start to count.

The defense has looked good in one game (against Indianapolis), while struggling in contests against Miami and Cincinnati. The starting offense has managed some drives ending in field goals, but hasn’t scored a touchdown, and the offensive line has looked decidedly sieve-like at times.

The Browns, meanwhile, come into the game with a 1-2 record and, like the Bears, are a trendy pick to finish last in their division this year. Their likely choice for starting quarterback – Josh McCown – should be familiar to the Bears and their fans but he won’t be seeing time Thursday, according to ESPN. It also seems doubtful that Johnny Manziel will see playing time, as he’s dealing with an elbow injury.

Aug 28, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback

Rex Grossman

(3) is hit by Chicago Bears defensive end

Cornelius Washington

(94)during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Also lurking in the Cleveland quarterback depth chart is Rex Grossman, so Thursday could be a full-blown Bears reunion at Soldier Field.

It’s tough to say who will play for the Browns, but they have some solid skill position players in Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline, while the running back position carries no visible threat. The Browns drafted rookie Duke Johnson Jr., who sustained a concussion Saturday against Tampa Bay, according to ESPN. Terrance West has received the majority of carries in the preseason, and ran for 673 yards in 2014.

On defense the Browns have one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Joe Haden, rookie defensive lineman Danny Shelton (a trendy draft prediction for the Bears earlier this year) and a pair of solid safeties in Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson.

The Bears come into the contest with a laundry list of walking wounded and a handful of questions on offense and defense, with unfortunately little time remaining before those questions need to be answered.

The Bears are searching for an answer at right tackle, with many wondering whether Kyle Long, the Pro Bowl right guard, will shift outside to tackle, where Jordan Mills and Charles Leno Jr. have been competing to see who is the worse option between the pair.

Aug 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long (75) during the second quarter of the preseason game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Long acknowledged to ESPN on Tuesday that he’d be open to switching positions.

“I don’t really have a preference,” Long said, according to ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson. “I’d like to help the team wherever that is, as you said. I’m really sincere when I say that. If they ask me to play receiver, I’d be out there running routes now, practicing. It’s football. It’s not complicated.”

Long’s willingness is great, but the team has done him a disservice by not giving him any game reps at this point in the preseason at right tackle. They should right that wrong Thursday, but Dickerson also speculates that Long may not play at all against the Browns.

Expect the Bears to rest many players Thursday. Wide receiver Kevin White, strong safety Ryan Mundy and special teamer Senorice Perry were all placed on injured reserve, while Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, Marquess Wilson, Jeremiah Ratliff, Jon Bostic, Eddie Goldman and Jermon Bushrod are all dealing with various injuries.

I would expect that all of those players – each of whom is expected to be a primary contributor for the Bears this year – to rest Thursday and hopefully be ready for the season opener against the Packers.

Aug 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker John Timu (57) celebrates making an interception during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field. Chicago won 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday’s game marks the final contest before final cuts are due by 3 p.m. Saturday. With many players likely to rest and others injured, look for the Bears to give extended looks to Cornelius Washington, Terry Williams and Willie Sutton on the defensive line, Willie Young and David Bass at outside linebacker, John Timu at inside linebacker and the ongoing third cornerback battle between Sherrick McManis and Terrance Mitchell.

As for the offense, if Long either plays tackle Thursday or doesn’t play at all, watch whomever plays right guard in his place. If it’s Vladimir Ducasse or Michael Ola, and they play well enough, shifting Long outside may happen by Week 1. Elsewhere, with Perry on IR, I think the running back drama has lessened, and that Jacquizz Rodgers, Ka’Deem Carey and Jeremy Langford will all make the roster.

But of course, the primary goal of the final preseason game is to get out of it as healthy as possible. For a team like the Bears already wracked with injuries, that goal becomes even more important.

Next: Bears-Browns: Five Things To Watch For

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