LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson’s public declaration that he plans to play his starters on Thursday night did not sway Chicago Bears coach John Fox.
“I think we kind of know what we’re going to do,” Fox said. “We pretty much keep that to ourselves until we get out there. What they do won’t impact what we do.”
The reality is the NFL discourages teams from publicizing that mostly backups play in the meaningless fourth exhibition game. Fans prefer not to pay high ticket prices to watch David Fales vs. Cody Kessler at quarterback, yet that is usually the case.
Fox’s track record has been to sit anyone of importance in the preseason finale, so with that in mind, the Bears likely turn their attention to the back end of the roster, where competition is fierce for some the final spots at tight end and wide receiver.
The tight end depth chart behind Zach Miller is fluid. The team is high on undrafted rookie Ben Braunecker, but he missed almost the entire preseason to injury. Veterans Tony Moeaki, Greg Scruggs, Khari Lee and Rob Housler are also in the mix, and could help their causes with solid efforts in Cleveland.
“They’ve all been doing really well,” Miller said. “They’ve been coming to work and grinding. Everyone does something different. We kind of have a whole group of guys that can do things together. Everyone has a good opportunity in this last game. I know everyone is going to make plays. Everyone is going to step on the field and make football plays.”
The lack of clarity extends to receiver. Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White are roster locks, and Eddie Royal’s $4.5 million 2016 salary is fully guaranteed, making him difficult to walk away from. An argument can also be made that Marc Mariani deserves a spot thanks to another strong camp, but someone in the group -- Josh Bellamy (strong special teamer), Daniel Braverman (seventh-round pick), Deonte Thompson and Cameron Meredith -- is in jeopardy. Marquess Wilson, currently on the PUP list, is another wild card in the wide receiver puzzle.
“It's so tough,” Royal said of final cuts. “We've got a lot of guys who can play. This is one of the most talented groups I've ever been around, just from top to bottom. These guys can play; you can see it out there with these practices and the few preseason games that we've had. The guys are out there making plays, so it's going to be some tough decisions to make because everybody in our room can play.”
The Bears must trim the roster to 53 players by Saturday.