Bears at Browns: What to Watch for Tonight

The Bears will wrap up the 2006 preseason tonight in Cleveland, and although the starting units probably won't see the field past the first quarter, there is still plenty of questions that need to be answered. Most of all, Rex Grossman and the first-team offense simply have to perform well to give them some momentum heading into Week 1 at Green Bay.

Head coach Lovie Smith will probably stick to his program and only play his starters for a series or two tonight against the Browns. And even though he said earlier this week that he has a pretty good idea what the final 53-man roster will look like, he undoubtedly still has some decisions to make. Here are 10 things to watch for tonight in Cleveland:

1. Will Rex Grossman leave the field with his head held high?
Grossman's struggles have been well documented this preseason, although the fact that he got booed off the field last week in Chicago seemed quite extreme. If the former Gator can lead a touchdown drive in the first quarter and get a few high fives as he heads back to the sideline, Bears fans will feel much more comfortable with the offense heading into the regular season.

2. Can Brian Urlacher and his crew get off the field on third down?
Most of the criticism this preseason has been directed at the offense and Grossman in particular, but the starting defense has been rusty at times, as well. The Cardinals were wildly successful on third down last week at Soldier Field, so the Bears D is overdue for some three-and-outs against a not-so-talented Cleveland offense.

3. Will OC Ron Turner remember that he has a running game?
It makes sense that the Bears have focused on the passing game during training camp because that was the primary area the team needed improvement from last year, but Turner has forgotten about the running game along the way. Adrian Peterson had no room to run in the first two exhibition games, and Thomas Jones fared no better last week, so the offensive line needs to open up some holes tonight.

4. Can the defensive line make it out of Cleveland in one piece?
The defensive front was supposed to be a team strength heading into this season, but this is where the Bears have been hit the hardest by the injury bug. With Dusty Dvoracek out for the season, Alex Brown nursing a dislocated shoulder, and Israel Idonije still battling a sprained ankle, youngsters like Mark Anderson and Delbert Cowsette will see plenty of action.

5. Who will make the team, Todd Johnson or Cameron Worrell?
Johnson is the veteran backup who has been a solid special teams contributor, while Worrell is the from-out-of-nowhere yongster who has raised some eyebrows this training camp. With Mike Brown, Chris Harris, and rookie Danieal Manning obviously secure on the depth chart, it's quite possible that both Johnson and Worrell are playing for their NFL lives tonight.

6. Which wide receiver is is going to grab the last roster spot?
The Bears have desperately been looking for a dependable receiving target to line up opposite Muhsin Muhammad, with Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley, and Rashied Davis all showing flashes of potentially being that guy during the exhibition season. Most NFL teams keep five receivers on the roster (maybe six if one is a special teams ace, i.e. Alex Bannister), so it's likley that either Airese Currie or Justin Gage will be gone shortly.

7. Is the kicking game going to be a team strength all season?
Kicker Robbie Gould made short work of competitor Josh Huston in training camp, and veteran Brad Maynard will probably send all-or-nothing punter Joel Stelly packing before long. Both Gould and Maynard have been excellent so far, and for a team predicated on running the football and playing tough defense, an elite kicking game can be a huge advantage.

8. Can anybody in the secondary actually make a play?
Just about every quarterback the Bears have faced in the preseason has completed an alarmingly high percentage of passes, highlighted by Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart's surgeon-like performance this past Friday night. The starting unit has been without Mike Brown and Nathan Vasher for a few weeks now, but the additions of the Flying Manning Brothers, veteran Ricky and rookie Danieal, was supposed to provide quality depth in the defensive backfield.

9. Is the return game really going to be this good?
Primary punt returner Devin Hester has broken off a run-back of at least 19 yards in each of the first three games, and Davis provided the highlight of the preseason with his 100-yard kickoff return for a score against San Diego. Much like the kicking game being of paramount importance, the ability to flip the field on special teams can be a key factor for an old school team like the Bears.

10. Can the team escape the final warmup free of injuries?
Everyone knows that the most important aspect of the preseason is having the healthiest team possible heading into Week 1. With the health of Jones and Cedric Benson worrying the team at the beginning of camp and a multitude of injuries now affecting the starting defense, another key player going down for any significant length of time could be catastrophic.


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