CLEVELAND -- With the regular season right around the corner, here are five things to watch for in Bears' the preseason finale against Cleveland.
Will the offense to come life: Let's rewind the clock to the 2006 preseason. The Bears' offense, like the current 2010 version, struggled mightily in the first three exhibition games against San Francisco, San Diego and Arizona, but together a solid scoring drive in the preseason finale against, coincidently enough, the Browns in Cleveland. I realize the Bears have faced the Browns every year in the final preseason game since 2005, but that one memorable drive in 2006 seemed to breathe a little life into a unit that lit it up the first five weeks of the regular season. The first-team offense is expected to play only one series Thursday night, but it would be nice to see them move the ball and pick up a few positive vibes heading into Labor Day weekend. Will it be the end of the world if the offense goes three and out on their opening drive? No. Would it help the overall team morale if they move the chains and put some points on the board? Absolutely.
Can the defensive line provide pressure: The secondary -- especially Chris Harris and Danieal Manning -- has taken their share of criticism this summer, but the defensive line has done little to help. Outside of Julius Peppers, not one member of the line has consistently made an impact in the last two games. Certainly, guys like Israel Idonije, Matt Toeaina and Mark Anderson have done a few things here and there, but opposing quarterbacks still have way too much time to throw the football. People jump all over the defensive backs about the long third down conversions on screen plays, but if a quarterback has time to go through all his progressions, then check down and dump the ball out to a back, that's on the pass rush, or lack thereof.
Can anybody win a job: Those on the bubble performed admirably against Arizona, but tough roster cuts are coming this weekend. Established players -- Tim Shaw, Garrett Wolfe, Josh Bullocks, Al Afalava -- and unproven high draft choices -- Jarron Gilbert, Juaquin Iglesias, Henry Melton -- are in jeopardy of failing to make the final 53-man squad. Usually, the final roster is already mapped out in advance of the last preseason game, but occasionally, a great performance in the exhibition finale can change the organization's mind. It's crazy to think Shaw, a premiere special teams player, could be in such danger, especially after all the units' issues this summer. But the Bears may feel like they can't justify keeping another specialist based on other needs, a flawed way to think, but unfortunately, it's the reality of the situation.
Can Todd Collins still play: Make no mistake about it, Collins was brought here to be the No. 2 quarterback. In no way should that fact be considered an indictment of Caleb Hanie, but Mike Martz simply could not enter the regular season with an injured Hanie and rookie Dan LeFevour. Expect Collins to see plenty of action versus the Browns, with LeFevour also getting a some time in the second half. Collins just needs to showing a basic understanding of the offense, complete a few passes, and protect the football. That would be the best-case scenario. If he goes out there and totally bombs, it will raise more questions about the Bears curious decision not to sign a quality backup (Marc Bulger) in the offseason.
Who else can block: Based on the performance of the offensive line in the first three preseason games, it might be about time to pay closer attention to the reserves. What if the Bears are forced to make a switch at tackle in the regular season, can Kevin Shaffer or J'Marcus Webb handle the assignment? How are James Marten, Josh Beekman and offseason first-team guard Johan Asiata progressing? Making wholesale changes on the offensive line would be a horrible move at this point, considering how long it takes for any line to build trust and chemistry. But if the pass protection problems carry over into the regular season, the Bears may be forced to use Plan B, whatever that is.