Here are three positional battles to monitor heading into the Chicago Bears’ preseason finale versus the Cleveland Browns:
1. Running back: Undrafted rookie Michael Ford is making a strong push to grab one of the final spots on the 53-man roster after returning a kickoff 100 yards in the second preseason game against San Diego, then following up that performance with 58 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries last week in Oakland. If the Bears decide to keep just three tailbacks, it means either Ford or veteran Armando Allen has to go. Allen played well last season for the Bears, appearing in 15 games and recording seven special-teams tackles. But Allen has been working his way back from an injury the past couple weeks, which has opened the door for the less expensive rookie out of LSU to showcase himself in these preseason games. Both figure to receive ample playing time tonight at Soldier Field.
2. Quarterback: The Bears’ offense is entirely in the hands of veteran quarterbacks Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards after Bears head coach Marc Trestman announced last week that starter Jay Cutler and No. 2 Josh McCown would not see the field in the final preseason contest. If the Bears open the season with three quarterbacks, and that is still an if, the final spot could be determined by which of the two reserves has a better game against the Browns, plus what each accomplished on the practice field the past two weeks. The Bears got a brief look at just Palmer last week in the fourth quarter (1-for-1, five yards), but both quarterbacks will get an extended look tonight. Even if the Bears decide to go with just two quarterbacks to start the year, the team might still find themselves in need of another QB later in the season -- that’s why this is still an important game for Palmer and Edwards, regardless.
3. Offensive line: If the Bears retain eight offensive linemen, as offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer hinted earlier in training camp, then two spots might still be available. That means Jonathan Scott, Eben Britton, J’Marcus Webb and Taylor Boggs are probably the guys still alive to make the team, although sometimes these calls are already made before the final preseason game. Scott has actually pulled off the rare feat of improving his position on the team despite missing the past several weeks with a knee injury that required a procedure to clean it out. That’s because Webb has continued to struggle ever since being demoted to second-team left tackle. Webb is a mystery. He has all the physical gifts, but his inconsistency coupled with his strange behavior and apparent lack of passion toward the game, makes him a strong candidate to get cut. If Scott’s knee is OK for Week 1, then it might make sense to just keep him and Britton, try and sneak Boggs on the practice squad, and send Webb on his merry way. But if Webb wants to make one final stand, he better make the most his opportunities tonight.