The Cleveland Browns are set to take on the Chicago Bears in the final game of the preseason for the ninth year in a row (hat tip: Tony Grossi). Starting quarterback Brandon Weeden will not see any action despite being a rookie quarterback on a young team. Instead, backup Colt McCoy will get the call. A case can be made that McCoy is better than your typical backup quarterback, so for however long he is in the game, Cleveland has a chance to pull off some productive drives early on. Some brief notes to preview tonight's game are after the jump.
- Many teams do not want some fluke injury happening to their starting quarterback in the final preseason game. For those who say a guy like Brandon Weeden needs more reps, he will get them -- behind closed doors at practice. He has already been going through the motions for over a month; is one quarter of the final preseason game really going to be a difference maker in how he does Week 1 against the Eagles? I don't think so. Out of the three games that were played on Wednesday, Eli Manning and Ryan Tannehill were the only starting quarterbacks to play. Tom Brady, Josh Freeman, Robert Griffin III, and Tony Romo did not see action.
- I would expect S Usama Young to play against the Bears after missing the entire preseason up until now. I can't imagine he can really earn a roster spot in this final contest; if he makes the team, it will be due to his credentials from a season ago. If Young and S David Sims receive a lot of playing time, hopefully Sims continues to hold his own and is able to make the final roster.
- There really is not much left to prove at the wide receiver position. There are currently eight receivers left, and I am projecting all of them to make the team between the final roster and the practice squad. The two practice squad guys would be Rod Windsor and Josh Cooper. Jordan Norwood, who is trying to fight off the sixth receiving role, did end up practicing this past week after suffering an eye injury against Philly.
- The top four defensive ends on the roster should be feeling pretty comfortable after seeing Marcus Benard and Auston English land on injured reserve. The defensive tackle situation could still feature some interesting battles. We know for certain that three guys will make the team: Ahtyba Rubin, Billy Winn, and John Hughes. Looking at the numbers, the Browns will probably keep two more guys after that. Do you go with Brian Schaefering and Scott Paxson as the veterans, or do you take a chance on hot commodity Ronnie Cameron?
- I think the Browns should really look at mixing things up on the offensive line today among the non-starters. They need to ensure that they have a guy on the roster who can play left tackle behind Joe Thomas, and whose name is not Oniel Cousins. If that is the case, then Cousins should be shown the door and a guy like Stanley Daniels can make the club instead.
- Seneca Wallace has nothing to prove in this game. If I am distributing the reps, here is how I would do it: Colt McCoy plays a little over a quarter, Wallace plays the end of the second quarter (or not at all), and Thaddeus Lewis gets all the reps in the second half. Lewis was very good in his first preseason game with the Browns against the Lions and needs to get some more in-game reps if he is indeed going to be the team's No. 3 quarterback. Unlike Weeden, Lewis does not get reps in practice very often and can use an opportunity like this to further prove himself and get comfortable.
- There are still a pair of back-end players I think the team want to look at when it comes to cornerback: James Dockery and Johnson Bademosi. Both players have received a lot of special teams work this camp in similar roles. It could end up being one or the other making the roster, or neither player. If one of them make the roster, I think Usama Young or Ray Ventrone would have to be on the way out.
- The linebacker situation will be interesting to watch. If Scott Fujita's suspension is not lifted, I guessed that the Browns would only carry five linebackers for the first three games. Those five include D'Qwell Jackson, Kaluka Maiava, James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson, and L.J. Fort. There are only two other linebackers on the roster: Benjamin Jacobs and Quinton Spears. Spears was with the team all of last season on special teams. I'll be looking to see if either guy makes a splash against the Bears.
- Last, but not least, let's talk about the fullback position again, particularly about Brad Smelley. I have already committed to the thought that Owen Marecic will make the team. The fan inside of me wants this game to be Smelley's audition. Give the guy four quarters of play, and let's see how he does catching out of the backfield, protecting the quarterback, and paving the way for a Brandon Jackson or Adonis Thomas. That might make the game worth watching in itself.
In terms of roster management, that might not be the best idea. Right now, I think Smelley is low key enough that he could still sqweak through to our practice squad, which allows the team to keep either an additional running back or tight end on the 53-man roster. If Smelley lights it up and the Browns waive him, the chances of losing him would seem to increase. Hmmm. Remember, Cleveland lost fullback Tyler Clutts to the Bears last year after waiving him. Funny enough, this preseason finale is also a big game for Clutts, who will be trying to win a roster spot by showing off against the Browns.
What are you looking for in tonight's game?