Bears roster spots on the line tonight

The Bears take on the Cleveland Browns this evening in the final preseason contest of 2013. Here are 10 players who could earn, or forfeit, a spot on Chicago's final 53-man roster.

The Chicago Bears will host the Cleveland Browns in the preseason finale tonight at Soldier Field. The majority of the starters won't play but that doesn't mean this is a meaningless game. In fact, there will be numerous jobs on the line this evening, with final cuts due at the end of the week. A number of players will be fighting to avoid being one of the 22 players the team will waive by Sunday.

Here are 10 bubble players whose performance against the Browns will dictate whether they remain a member of the Bears beyond this weekend.

RB Armando Allen

Allen had a stranglehold on the club's No. 3 running back role heading into the preseason. Yet a hamstring injured sidelined him the past two weeks, which has opened the door for rookie Michael Ford. If Allen has any shot at keeping his job, he's going to need to be outstanding tonight. He's going to have to prove he can be a weapon as a running back, particularly as a pass catcher, and show he has value on special teams as well. Anything less and he'll likely be gone.

RB Michael Ford

Two weeks ago Ford proved his worth as a returner with a 100-yard kickoff return. Last week, he proved his value as a runner, breaking three tackles en route to his first NFL touchdown, while averaging 6.4 yards on the ground. Allen opened the door and Ford stepped right through, yet his work isn't done. In the first two contests, Ford averaged just 1.9 and 2.5 yards per carry. He must show tonight that last week was no aberration and that he has more value on offense than Allen.

QBs Jordan Palmer & Trent Edwards

It's highly unlikely the Bears will keep three quarterbacks this season but if they do, the player who performs better against the Browns will likely the team's No. 3. And if the team sticks with two passers, Palmer and Edwards will be trying out for a role as the club's emergency signal caller in case of injury. Believe me, Marc Trestman will be more focused on these two than any other players on the field.

FB Tony Fiammetta

Fiammetta hasn't been overly impressive as the club's lead blocker. The Bears didn't keep a fullback last year but with Trestman now in charge, Fiammetta has a chance to make the team. But he must demonstrate a consistent ability to open holes in the run game, otherwise Trestman may choose to keep four tight ends.

TE Fendi Onobun

Onobun is a very talented player and looked great at times during training camp. But under the lights, he has struggled mightily. He has dropped three passes this preseason, including a wide-open touchdown in the opener. I still believe he has a chance to make the club, as he's the only player behind Martellus Bennett with any ability as a receiver, but he has to stop with the drops. If he shows tonight what he has shown in practice, it should give the coaching staff confidence to keep him on the final 53.

T J'Marcus Webb

Since being demoted to the second team, Webb has struggled. At left tackle last week, he succumbed to the same mental mistakes that have plagued him throughout his career. And even worse, he appeared to give up late in the game. It's obvious he has lost his starting gig but he has to prove he still wants to be a part of this team if he plans on sticking around.

WR Terrence Toliver

Rookie Marquess Wilson has garnered most of the attention this offseason, particularly last week when he took reps with the first team. Yet few noticed that Toliver was the first receiver to fill in with the starters, ahead of Wilson. If the rumors of Earl Bennett on the trading block are true, then Toliver has a shot at earning the club's fifth receiver role. And even if they keep Bennett, there's a chance the coaching staff will go with six receivers, so Toliver's performance tonight could go a long way toward securing one of those spots.

DT Christian Tupou

Corvey Irvin's ankle injury has opened the door for the club's fourth defensive tackle position. Most assumed Zach Minter would step into that role but he's been pretty silent in live action. Yet Tupou has shown very well and appears to have the requisite size and quickness to play either the 3-technique or nose tackle spots. Two weeks ago, he picked up a sack. If he can get another sack tonight, he may claim the final DT spot.

CB C.J. Wilson

Zack Bowman's hamstring injury last week came at the wrong time, as Wilson stepped right in and started making plays, including an interception. Wilson, an undrafted free agent out of N.C. State, has looked good since rookie minicamp and has potential. If he shines tonight, he may convince the coaching staff to let him develop as a member of the 53.

DE Cheta Ozougwu

It's unclear if the Bears are going to keep four or five defensive ends this year. If it's five, then Ozougwu, who missed last week's contest with a hamstring injury, has a great shot to earn that spot against Cleveland. He was in this position heading into the preseason finale last year and Ozougwu shined, picking up four tackles and a sack. A repeat performance this evening could again secure him a roster spot.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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