The Chicago Bears’ celebration of their 24-0 win against the Cleveland Browns will be short lived. It was the Bears’ third victory of the preseason in four games, and as usual with the final preseason game on the schedule, the backups all played. Many of them are fighting for the final spots on the roster. There are several players on the bubble to make the Chicago Bears’ final 53-man team, including some veterans.
Fans may not find the fourth preseason game as exciting as the first three, but coaches think the opposite. Coaches see it as the players fighting their way on the team.
The Chicago Bears and head coach John Fox are no different.
In the game versus the Browns, the Bears coaching staff wanted to see some of the bubble players distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.
The Chicago Bears were hoping to have a starting right tackle by the end of the game. Both candidates, Jordan Mills and Charles Leno were competing for the job. Both of them are on the Bears bubble. The battle at right tackle has gone on throughout training camp.
It appeared that Mills had the job going into the Chicago Bears training camp. He struggled coming out of the gate though. After just one preseason performance the Bears announced that Charles Leno would practice with the first team players, as reported by Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The results were mixed as many expected. Leno struggled with the blocking schemes in his first stint as a starter. Eventually he would show enough to warrant a second look with the first team.
In order to get a feel for how Jordan Mills would respond the Bears gave him a ton of reps at right tackle against Cleveland, while Leno played on the left side. Both Leno and Mills started the game, but there were no other potential starters on the field. Mills did what he was supposed to do at right tackle, but was it enough?
Neither Jordan Mills or Charles Leno made mistakes Thursday. At the same time, neither of them ran away from the other. If the Chicago Bears can find an upgrade, or a player with a great upside among the final roster cuts across the NFL, they could grab a starting right tackle from the scrap heap. If the Bears do so, the loser of this current battle likely gets cut.
Injuries is the story of the preseason for the Chicago Bears.
Their receiving corps should be renamed the mash unit. Pro Bowl WR Alshon Jeffery never played a preseason down and rarely practiced with a mysterious injury. According to Fox Sports, Coach John Fox remains tight-lipped about the receiver’s absence. No one knows when Jeffery will be ready. There are doubts regarding his availability for the season opener.
Alshon Jeffery is not the only pass-catcher out with an injury. Projected slot receiver Eddie Royal and the other projected starter Marquees Wilson are also out. Rookie Kevin White may miss the entire season with a fractured shin.
With the top-three receivers down for much of the preseason others had to step up. Many of the receivers invited to the Chicago Bears training camp survived the first wave of roster cuts. Players such as Joshua Bellamy, Rashard Lawrence, Marc Mariani, Cameron Meredith, and Ify Umudo have all stepped up in ways that one can only imagine. All of the receivers have made a huge strides, but not all of them can make the Bears’ 53-man roster.
Joshua Bellamy is a lock to make the Chicago Bears. Meredith and Umudo appear to be Bears practice squad members. Marc Mariani and Rashard Lawrence are on the bubble.
Coach Fox gave Bears’ cornerback Terrance Mitchell the return duties for Thursday’s game and the second-year player did not disappoint. The fact that Mitchell created a spark with his returns put the onus on Mariani to perform well on offense.
Marini’s touchdown grab in the second quarter may have helped his cause to solidify a spot on the team. It will depend on what the Chicago Bears coaches are looking for at this time. Marc Mariani is a solid special teams player. That is where his value rests. Does he have playmaker ability on a team that needs playmakers?
Lawrence on the other hand, and to a lesser extent Cameron Meredith has flashed the characteristics of game-changers. Neither have the experience of Mariani, but the Bears have a void at wide receiver. Could the Chicago Bears keep six receivers?
What to do with Willie Young?
Last year’s sack leader for the Bears has been working back in shape after rupturing his Achilles late in the season. Unfortunately, it has been an uphill battle for the likable Young all training camp. The coaching change that the Bears went through is what is hurting his chances at this moment. Willie Young is a good 4-3 defensive end, the Chicago Bears are employing a base 3-4 hybrid scheme. This could possibly leave Young as the odd man out.
Willie Young is working out as an outside linebacker in an attempt to make the Bears. Thus far the results have been good. It does not help that he has missed practice time while recovering, but to come this far is an incredible feat worthy of making the final 53-man roster.
There are two things that work against him.
As of now Willie Young is a reserve player. Can he play special teams? Not likely so. If he makes the team there is not a doubt that he would whatever the Bears’ coaching staff asks of him. That leaves us to the second negative factor.
Willie Young is scheduled to earn $2.45 million, according to Rotoworld. That is too much for a backup linebacker. Since he could start for a team which uses a base 4-3 defense, Young could end up leaving via trade, taking him off the bubble. He did play well enough Thursday to prove that he is getting healthy.
The fourth preseason game is meaningless to the fans but not to the players who are vying for final roster spots. The Chicago Bears players are no exception, especially the five players who are on the bubble.
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