CLEVELAND -- Devoid of star power on the field, the Chicago Bears still managed to provide excitement with the reserves in a 28-20 win over the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night in the exhibition finale.
Here’s a closer look:
What it means: That finally, it’s time for the regular season. But the Bears have several difficult roster decisions to make at some of the depth positions, which really is a good problem to have and a credit to what the personnel department has done in acquiring talent while working with new general manager Phil Emery.
The Bears end the preseason in fairly good shape health-wise, although Brian Urlacher -- recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee -- remains perhaps the club’s biggest concern headed into the regular-season opener. The Bears start prepping next week for the Sept. 9 opener against rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
No star power: Looking to rest most of the frontline contributors for the regular-season opener, the Bears utilized several lesser-known players as starters. The club operated with Josh McCown as the starting quarterback, with Edwin Williams at center, A.J. Greene at left guard and James Brown at left tackle. Ricky Henry manned the right guard spot, while Cory Brandon played right tackle.
The Bears alternated running backs Armando Allen and Lorenzo Booker through the first half. At receiver, the club worked in Dane Sanzenbacher, Eric Weems, and Joe Anderson along with Terriun Crump and Brittan Golden.
On defense, the front four consisted of Corey Wootton, Nate Collins, Brian Price and Chauncey Davis with cornerbacks Isaiah Frey and Jonathan Wilhite and safeties Mark LeGree and Jeremy Jones handling the back end. Xavier Adibi, J.T. Thomas and Jabara Williams played the three linebacker spots.
Jones shines: Unexpectedly, undrafted rookie Jeremy Jones received the start at safety opposite Mark LeGree, and Smith praised the Wayne State product for his play in the first half. Jones finished the first half with three tackles and an interception that set up the club’s first touchdown, a 30-yard scoring strike from Josh McCown to Dane Sanzenbacher.
“I thought Jeremy Jones came in (and stood out),” Smith said. “Great interception; had a couple of good tackles. He showed up.”
Adibi makes impact: Signed by the Bears on Aug. 11, Xavier Adibi put together a performance against the Browns that might add difficulty to the club’s decision process at the linebacker position on final cutdown day.
Adibi started his night with a tackle for a 2-yard loss, followed by a sack. By the halfway point of the third quarter, the fifth-year veteran had racked up seven tackles. A former standout at Virginia Tech, Adibi has started eight games in the NFL, which likely gives the staff a level of comfort about his ability to fill in at any of the linebacker spots. Considering the position lacks depth overall, Adibi seems to have a good chance to stick on the final roster.
Adibi was shaken up in the third quarter, but walked off the field unassisted.
Explosive plays: The Bears increased their lead to 28-10 in the third quarter on a couple of explosive plays by rookies Greg McCoy and Brittan Golden.
Jumping a short route by Browns receiver Josh Gordon, McCoy broke up a Thaddeus Lewis pass with the incompletion bouncing off the back of Gordon’s leg. McCoy possessed the presence of mind to snatch the loose ball and romp 15 yards for the score.
Brittan, meanwhile, scooped up a blocked punt by second-year linebacker Patrick Trahan and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
McCoy is a seventh-round pick out of TCU, while Golden went undrafted out of West Texas A&M.
Price injured: Defensive tackle Brian Price took a knee to the helmet in the third quarter and was taken to the locker room for evaluation. The Bears classified Price as having a head injury, but no further details were immediately available.
The Bears traded a seventh-round pick in late July to acquire Price from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and early on, he couldn’t even make it through a full workout at training camp. Having dealt with physical issues and personal tragedies throughout his brief career, Price gradually improved conditioning at camp and had been making flash plays in practice and preseason games.
Price came into the exhibition finale with four tackles in three outings, and started opposite Nate Collins against the Browns.
What’s next: The Bears must cut to the final 53-man roster Friday by the 8 p.m. CST deadline. After that, the club begins preparation for Week 1 against the Colts at Soldier Field.