CLEVELAND -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said he already knew "what [our] 53-man roster looks like" on Tuesday, but wanted one last look Thursday night in the preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns.
Maybe Smith wasted his time.
Other than receiving confirmation concerning Todd Collins’ capabilities as the primary backup to Jay Cutler at quarterback, the Bears likely didn’t glean much from their 13-10 loss to the Browns in the exhibition finale.
The Bears seemingly automatically moved Collins past inexperienced backup Caleb Hanie on the depth chart -- despite the Hanie spending the offseason and training camp as the No. 2 quarterback -- almost immediately upon signing the 38-year old veteran on Aug. 23.
Collins reinforced the team’s choice by completing 10 of 15 for 139 yards and a touchdown.
In finishing one half of work with a passer rating of 118.5, Collins completed his first four passes, while displaying near-effortless comfort in the club’s timing-based scheme.
“It was pretty comfortable on most things,” Collins said. “The formations and play-calling, some of them I wasn’t as sharp as I needed to be, but overall I thought it was a pretty decent effort other than the mishap we had on the shotgun snap. Philosophically, I’m very comfortable running it. I just need to sharpen up on some things: the blitz reads, and the formations, getting the plays out quicker and things like that.”
Collins’ first touchdown pass -- a 15-yard strike to tight end Greg Olsen -- gave the Bears a 7-0 lead after Robbie Gould’s extra-point kick. Kevin Malast set up the TD three plays before, when he scooped up a Colt McCoy fumble on first down, which turned out to be the starting defense’s only snap of the game.
"I think he did a good job. It was tough -- he didn’t get many practice reps other than this week," Olsen said of Collins. "He was kind of a late addition to this team, obviously. But he’s a veteran, and he has been in there before. He did a really good job."
Collins played the entire first half with a patchwork group of starters and backups at several spots, including along the offensive line, where Josh Beekman started at center and Johan Asiata took several first-half snaps.
Chicago’s starting offensive line played in three series, and didn’t give up a sack, after allowing nine in the last two games. Collins suffered a sack in the second quarter, but by then, the starters had already left the game.
Several backups, meanwhile, might not have made enough of an impression to parlay their on-the-bubble status into spots on the 53-man roster. Linebacker Tim Shaw made four tackles in the first half, but it’s unclear whether he showed enough to keep a spot. In addition, injuries at several positions make Shaw -- a special-teams stalwart -- more of a luxury than necessity.
Defensive linemen Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton and safeties Al Afalava and Josh Bullocks were also considered to be on the bubble. All likely will be hot topics of discussion on Friday, when the Bears coaches and personnel staff meet at Halas Hall to make final roster decisions.
But for the most part, none of them stood out in the finale, making the decision more difficult. So if the staff’s collective mind was already made up heading into Thursday night’s outing, it’s unlikely any of the roster longshots changed it.
"Our back-end guys are getting a lot of reps tonight showing what they can do," Smith said at halftime. "Hopefully they can make a couple of plays and make us put them on the roster."