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Bears Fri Aug 31 2012

Bears Close Preseason With Minor Skirmishes

Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngThe major storyline of the Bears' fourth and final preseason game, a 28-20 win in Cleveland, was who would get the third-string running back slot. Both Lorenzo Booker and Armando Allen battled for the position, splitting carries and sharing the workload the entire game.

Yeah, you can probably tell that if that was the biggest story of the game, none of the Bears that get regular playing time saw the field on Thursday.

Chicago was not alone, because most of the good teams did not play their first-stringers Thursday night. The Ravens sat most of their players of note on both sides of the ball, and so did the Eagles, Jets, Falcons, Steelers and Texans. It just wasn't worth the injury risk.

So while Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall leisurely strolled the sideline with baseball caps on, Chicago's second and third units had to go out there and get after it. Not only were players fighting for favorable slots on the depth chart, many were trying to survive the 22-man cut for the regular season.

Both running backs played well on the evening, finishing with very similar rushing stats - Allen had 83 yards on 16 carries, and Booker gained 81 yards on 15 rushes. Booker, though, had a more consistent game as Allen got a majority of his yards on a 49-yard carry late in the fourth quarter. They each have a distinct playing style, with Allen being more of an up-the-gut, no frills rusher while Booker is shiftier, and has some slick moves in his arsenal to break tackles.

If I had to pick one to keep, I would have to go with Allen. He looks pretty comfortable in the passing game, catching a few screens and slants for 51 yards and a touchdown. On the TD, Allen showed that he can make a tougher catch, reaching down and catching a pass that was slightly behind him while a Browns defensive back tackled him as he crossed the goal line.

If the NFL is indeed shifting into a passing league, the Bears should want that extra potential weapon. Allen has more value than Booker does, because he can catch passes out of the backfield, and he can run routes after motioning to the line of scrimmage.

As for everyone else? Punter Ryan Quigley continued his hot preseason and downed a couple balls inside the 10. He will be valuable if starting punter Adam Podlesh misses the opener.

Josh McCown went 20 of 29 passing, but he overthrew a receiver for an interception, and other than a 30-yard TD strike to Dane Sanzenbacher, his completions were of the dink-and-dunk variety. And of course, it was against a bunch of Browns defenders I've never heard of. Yet, McCown should be a good third-string QB if the Bears hold onto him - he played well after he relieved Caleb Hanie of his duties late last season, and McCown is a mobile, accurate passer that never tries to do too much.

A few guys made plays on defense and special teams. Xavier Adibi, a linebacker, had seven tackles and a sack, which he got by rushing straight up the middle, virtually unblocked. Patrick Trahan, also a linebacker, blocked a punt, and Brittan Golden returned it for a touchdown. Greg McCoy made the heads-up play of the game, catching a ball that bounced off Cleveland receiver Josh Gordon's foot, and he ran the ball into the endzone despite the play being whistled dead. The refs overturned the call on the field -- that the pass was incomplete -- and awarded Chicago six points.

The Bears weren't completely sharp, though. They had problems tackling Browns running backs Brandon Jackson and Adonis Thomas. The two Cleveland mobile quarterbacks, Seneca Wallace and Thaddeus Lewis, had a field day scrambling around and either taking off rushing or hitting an open receiver after exiting the pocket.

Chicago will make their final cuts tomorrow, and really, it seems like most of the players that took the field in Cleveland will be gone. All NFL teams will trim their roster from a hefty 75 players to a more svelte 53-man squad.

The Bears have a tough choice to make between their young running backs, but both Booker and Allen are defensible options. Each hope that their preseason performances, highlighted by Allen's catches tonight and Booker's kickoff return touchdown against Washington, land them a job with either the Bears or another team in the league. They await on the Bears' decision.

 
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