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Bears Thu Aug 28 2014
The final preseason game is always a difficult one to watch for most fans. Very few starters take so much as one snap for either team, and the entire spectacle feels like the NFL in slow motion. A dress rehearsal is the perfect comparison.
But there are still guys at the bottom of the rosters that are trying to make the 53-man roster or the 10-man practice squad. The game means everything to their future livelihood. The roster currently sits at 75 players, and the last 22 cuts have to be made by Saturday at noon. Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the battles that will be the central focus of tonight's action.
David Fales will start and play the whole game barring injury. I've gone back and forth on whether or not the Bears would keep him on the roster or try and sneak him to the practice squad, but I'm pretty convinced they're going to roster him the whole year now. They're desperate for a young (ie: cheap) quarterback they can develop behind their $54 million man, and it would be a colossal waste of a draft pick if they waived him.
The only remaining question here is did the Bears release Jordan Palmer a week too early? He was signed almost immediately by Buffalo after losing the backup job to Jimmy Clausen, and can now provide the Bills with plenty of useful information going into their Week 1 matchup. Releasing him last week was the right thing to do so he could find another job. It also made sense to keep guys at other positions the team might be considering for the practice squad. But it's still worth wondering if Phil Emery might've pulled that trigger too early. The Bills might very well have signed him this Sunday if he got cut on Saturday, but they would have so little time to mine him for information that it might distract them from their overall game plan.
Ka'Deem Carey and Shaun Draughn are the second and third running backs in some order, and it's hard to see the team carrying more than four backs (Matt Forte and Tony Fiammetta are locks). Senorise Perry is going to get a look returning kicks and possibly a punt or two, but it's an uphill climb for him to make it.
Jordan Lynch is reportedly going to see a lot of time at running back tonight, but his fate is pretty much decided. The Bears will offer him a spot on the now increased practice squad roster, and he'll work at becoming a dynamic at another position in the NFL.
The battles here are going right down until the end. Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson are all obvious locks, though the Bears will have to decide whether to put Wilson on injured reserve with the designation to return. That option would free up an extra roster spot now, but would prevent Wilson from playing until Nov. 9 against Green Bay.
Josh Morgan is as close to a lock as you can get because of his solid camp and general consistency. Barring another pregame injury, we should finally get a chance to see Chris Williams return kicks, and that's his key to making the roster. If he is able to bring two kicks out past the 20-yard line -- penalty free -- the job is his.
Santonio Holmes needs to flash the speed and catching combination he had prior to his Lisfranc injury to make the team, but the battle is a difficult one because the Bears will probably want this receiver spot (if they even keep this many) to participate and be an ace on special teams. If he's able to return some punts or kicks as well, that will add to his potential usefulness.
If the Bears choose to go with a receiver who can help out on special teams, it's down to trio of Josh Bellamy, Armanti Edwards and Michael Spurlock, with the last man listed having the best shot because of his experience on special teams. If you haven't noticed yet, a lot of these final roster spots will be decided on return and coverage units.
Dante Rosario is going to be the primary backup again this year. He can catch the ball a little and is a major contributor on special teams. He's a below-average blocker, but the Bears aren't being picky at this point.
Zach Miller was going to make the roster, but his season-ending injury might also lead to the Bears keeping just two tight ends, since Matthew Mulligan and Jeron Mastrud don't bring a whole lot to table. Mulligan hasn't blocked particularly well, which is supposed to be his strong suit, and Mastrud is a pretty easy cut at this point.
Injuries to Jordan Mills, Kyle Long, Brian de la Puente, and Eben Britton have given guys below them an opportunity that was pretty unexpected for a team that started the same offensive line grouping in all 16 games last year. It's also made trying to predict what will happen a headache.
Though de la Puente and Britton have missed a ton of time, it's hard seeing the Bears cut either guy. de la Puente was brought in to be the primary backup to Roberto Garza and the two guards, with a possible long-term future at center, while Britton was a valuable swing tackle last year and chipping in as a second tight end.
Michael Ola is getting a ton of praise, and he's gotten time at both tackle and guard in camp -- making him extremely valuable from a flexibility standpoint. I'm pegging the Bears at nine offensive linemen, and the final spot will probably go to Charles Leno Jr., but don't count out a guy like Ryan Groy, who has done a great job when he's gotten into games this preseason. Dennis Roland and Taylor Boggs are solid players, but will get eliminated in the numbers game.
Eight guys have roster spots locked up (the top eight on this roster projection), and Austen Lane has done some really nice things in the preseason to secure a spot. The next question is whether or not the team will keep nine or ten linemen. Cornelius Washington would have the inside track if that were the case, and a monster performance from Tracy Robertson or David Bass might vault each into a spot, too. Lee Pegues and Brandon Dunn are probably gone for sure.
It's either six or seven guys here, and they're not cutting Shea McClellin. DeDe Lattimore is probably a goner, which leaves Khaseem Greene, Christian Jones and Jerry Franklin fighting for the final one or two spots.
Greene is much improved from the guy who just wasn't ready for the NFL last season, so he'll likely stick as a possible heir to the Lance Briggs throne at weakside linebacker. Jones and Franklin will make the team if either of them stands out on special teams, though Jones has gotten a lot of column space because of his size and perceived status that he would've been a mid-round pick if not for his off-field troubles. I'd assume that just one of these guys will stick around, and Franklin is the leader in the clubhouse.
This position is completely full, with Sherrick McManis the fifth corner and primary special teams player. They've got loads of talent behind him, and that might spur the team to hang onto another one of these guys. Demontre Hurst, Al Louis-Jean and C.J. Wilson have all made some great plays in camp and preseason games, and all will likely make practice squads around the league if the Bears cut ties. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Jets grab one of these guys as well due to their lack of CB depth and the fact the two teams play each other in Week 3.
Ryan Mundy is starting -- that's all we know. Chris Conte, Brock Vereen and Danny McCray all have a place on the roster too, so it's basically a decision on whether or not the team wants to keep M.D. Jennings around as insurance and special teams fodder. I'd lean no on that, but a big game tonight could change some minds in the front office.