The Chicago Bears lost a close one in the preseason finale this evening, losing 18-16 to the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field. It was contest in which the starters did not play and the final score meant nothing. Yet this was anything but a meaningless game. The action tonight gave us a much clearer picture as to who will and won't make the team this year.
Let's go over all the action.
-The Bears had just one injury on the night. T Cory Brandon had his leg rolled up late in the game and was carted off the field. Brandon wasn't going to make the team anyway but it's tough to see a young player go down in such fashion.
Notes from the finale
-During the week, coach Marc Trestman made it clear the Bears would not be playing starters against the Browns. He held true to his word, sitting every single first-team player.
Yet a few bubble players also sat, which could mean they have solidified a roster spot. Among those who did not play tonight: FB Tony Fiammetta, T Eben Britton, WR Eric Weems and WR Marquess Wilson. There is always the chance the team held out the aforementioned players so as to avoid injury and thus a settlement, particularly in the case of Weems, but as of now, it appears those four have earned a place on the final 53-man roster.
-With Britton on the sidelines, J'Marcus Webb played the entire game at right tackle. To start the game, he had his obligatory false start and then looked mediocre for the rest of the contest. The fact he played all night, and didn't look good against Cleveland backups, leads me to believe Webb will be cut this week.
-The MVP on the night was QB Jordan Palmer. He had just 10 days to learn the offense and he came out and carved up the Browns defense. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 111 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions, good for a QB rating of 102.8.
Palmer was confident in the pocket, made good reads and delivered the ball on target. The Bears like Josh McCown as Jay Cutler's backup, so Palmer is no threat to take over as the No. 2, but he showed tonight that, if injuries hit, he can be a viable candidate to fill in off the street.
-Palmer's favorite target was receiver Joe Anderson, who showed in this game his immense playmaking ability. He caught four passes for 64 yards, including a 37-yard catch and run over the deep middle of the field, and a five-yard touchdown grab. On the TD, Anderson beat man coverage, adjusted to a back-shoulder throw and kept his feet in bounds. It was a very impressive play.
If Earl Bennett's injury lingers, or if he's traded, Anderson should have no problem filling in as the team's No. 3 pass catcher.
-Wide receiver Terrence Toliver also looked good tonight, catching six passes for 49 yards. His size and length are assets and if the coaching staff chooses to keep six wide receivers, Toliver could be the last man standing.
-Fendi Onobun is an enigma. He has struggled in the preseason and tonight was his last chance to show he can be the club's backup pass-catching tight end. He caught a few passes early, which appeared to get him in a rhythm. He then dropped a tough catch down the seam on a pass that was underthrown. Yet in the second half, he came out hot, catching a 20-yard pass and a 17 yarder on the opening drive.
Unfortunately, he may have sealed his fate on the following drive. QB Trent Edwards tried to hit Onobun on an out route and the pass bounced off his hands and into the secondary. Browns LB James-Michael Johnson intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown. That could have been the last straw for Onobun, who also had a holding penalty.
"We've got some tough decision to make and Fendi is going to be in the mix when we make those decisions," Trestman said after the game.
-Armando Allen and Michael Ford split reps at running back through the first three quarters. No player truly distinguished himself but Ford was slightly better. If I had to guess right now, I'd say Ford makes the final roster. But I also believe there's a Chance Allen still makes the team, with Ford being signed to the practice squad. That way the Bears can keep both players in the hopper. Either way, this one is a toss up.
-Brandon Hardin played worse than anyone on the field tonight. He made more errors, both mental and physical, than anyone else in the game. On the first play of the game, he gave up a 45-yard completion to WR Josh Gordon. A few plays later, Hardin took a horrible angle on a crossing route, which allowed the receiver another 20 yards after the catch.
Hardin looked lost out there. His transition to safety has not gone well and he has not earned a roster spot at this point. He could still get placed on the practice squad but even that might be optimistic.
-Taylor Boggs played pretty well at center tonight. He had a few bad plays but overall he held his own. He's a potential practice squad candidate as the team's emergency backup at center.
-Linebacker J.T. Thomas still has an outside shot at making the team as the seventh linebacker. He played a decent game tonight, which included a thunderous sack in which he lifted the quarterback off the ground and drove him to the ground. Thomas has value on special teams as well, so we'll find out later this week if his performance against the Browns was enough to win a job.
-Cornelius Washington played most of the game, which was somewhat surprising. I felt he might get a few reps early and then they'd sit him, yet the staff had him rotating until late in the game. In fact, he was the only draft pick who played at all tonight, which means his future is still up in the air. He picked up a personal foul penalty late in the contest for hitting the QB in the head, which didn't help his cause. That said, I still believe he'll make the team, he just may not see much playing time this year.
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.