Perhaps the biggest hype surrounding a quarterback in the NFL since Tim Tebow’s arrival in Denver in 2010 is Johnny Manziel. The Bears will catch a glimpse of “Johnny Football” in the preseason finale on Thursday.
The Browns’ future star in the making, Manziel, is the backup to veteran Brian Hoyer after a highly debated competition that probably shouldn’t have been so highly debated.
Hoyer is expected to run the offense for the first quarter, while Manziel will take over in the second quarter before former Bears first-round pick and longtime starter Rex Grossman will see the field for the first time all preseason.
The Bears on the other hand have given sixth-round pick David Fales the green light as he is anticipated to play the entire game barring any setbacks.
The fourth game is certainly not the most exciting. Every football fan knows that, but it gives you a sense of who will carve out a roster spot after a full off-season of work.
The Bears and Browns both have lots of decisions to make as each team has to trim their rosters from 75 down to 53 by Saturday’s deadline at 3:00 p.m. CT.
Marc Trestman and his staff will be thinking rather quickly in terms of putting together a roster that is Week One ready. With so many areas of depth still being sorted out, including a couple key contributors to be determined, it won’t be easy to make these final moves.
Here are five players to keep your eyes on as the Bears wrap up the preseason for good.
The Bears have been impressed so far by this hard working undrafted rookie from Louisville. Besides his game-winning touchdown run in game two of the preseason against Jacksonville, the 6-foot, 187-pound speedster has averaged 4.1 yards per carry , while looking solid on special teams. Perry certainly has a chance at earning the wide open returner job after totaling 51 yards on two kickoffs last week in Seattle. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis had high praise for his returning abilities as well as his coverage skills. Don’t be shocked to see him carve out a spot on the 53-man roster. Perry has done nothing to hurt his stock and if he continues in his positive ways on Thursday night in Cleveland, he could be around for the long haul.
Despite being a Super Bowl MVP and a seasoned veteran, Holmes still needs time to acclimate to the Bears’ offense and role with the team. He caught one of two targets for seven yards against Seattle from ex-Bear and now Bill Jordan Palmer. He took the field for only 17 plays in the game’s entirety. It isn’t a definite that he will play extensively on Thursday night, but if he does expect him to line up at receiver as well as punt returner, where he could increase his value. As he continues to learn Trestman’s scheme, Holmes should earn a roster spot behind Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Josh Morgan. A nice outing could give him more playing time early on in the season.
Bass, a seventh-round pick by Oakland last season was claimed off waivers by the Bears after final cuts. He quickly carved out a role as a situational pass rusher with the lack of depth and injuries piling up around the defensive line. He compiled 23 tackles (15 solo) and a sack in 12 games, including one start. His brightest moment came against Baltimore in Week 11, when he intercepted a Joe Flacco pass and took it 24 yards for a touchdown. However, he has quickly fallen out off the coaches radar lately. He has five tackles and a sack this preseason in limited time. This is a huge game for Bass if he wants to make the roster. Veteran Trevor Scott and journeyman Austen Lane are currently ahead of him on the depth chart after making consistent plays this preseason. Personally, I think it would be a big mistake if the Bears let Bass go. He has a bright future in this league.
Like mentioned above Fales will draw the start and it should be a great opportunity for him. Jay Cutler praised the rookie for his “quick feet and ability to read through his progessions quickly.” The San Jose State product hasn’t played since the preseason opener against Philadelphia, where he completed five of seven passes for 68 yards and an interception. Jimmy Clausen is Cutler’s backup, so we know one thing for sure, the Bears are keeping those two on the roster. The opportunity to win the No. 3 job if the Bears decide to use it is there for the taking for Fales.
Wilson is competing with Demontre Hurst and Al Louis-Jean for a likely sixth and final cornerback spot. The second-year man from North Carolina State appeared in two games last season making one solo stop on special teams. He has two interceptions this preseason and has been active on defense. His value is obviously on special teams once again, but he isn’t a bad end of the roster guy to have in case of injury. He should win the competition unless he falls flat on his face in Cleveland.
Honorable mentions: LB Christian Jones, RB Jordan Lynch, WR/KR Chris Williams, T Charles Leno, TE Matthew Mulligan, S M.D. Jennings
Jones has a chance to earn a roster spot, while Lynch is likely suited for a practice squad role unless he puts up huge numbers and forces the Bears to keep him in house.
Williams, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury is the favorite for the kick returner job if he can stay healthy, but that remains to be seen. Leno, Mulligan and Jennings are all looking to simply make the team and contribute.
What will you be watching on Thursday night when the Bears end the preseason in Cleveland?
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