Fourth Quarter Update: Bears 26, Browns 23
On the offensive side of the ball, it looks like the Bears are going to go with just two QBs in 2009: Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie. When it was all said and done, Brett Basanez simply didn't do enough with the few chances he was given and couldn't convince the coaching staff that he was indispensible – like Hanie did last year. Should Cutler get hurt at some point, the front office is going to have to bring in a veteran passer anyway because there is no way they can justify a one-two of Hanie and Basanez.
Defensively, end Ervin Baldwin is making his legion of followers on the BearReport.com message boards giddy with excitement right now, racking up seven tackles and a pair of sacks in what can only be described as a, well, Baldwinian effort. General manager Jerry Angelo made two selections in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, but neither one of them is going to make the roster at this rate. End Henry Melton is injured right now and looks to have a "redshirt" season on injured reserve in his future, while cornerback D.J. Moore compounded his so-so coverage skills by fumbling a punt in the fourth quarter.
And that wraps up the preseason, sports fans, as the Midway Monsters win their third straight 26-23 over Cleveland to move to 3-1 and now await a Week-1 road trip to Green Bay.
Third Quarter Update: Bears 20, Browns 20
A good example for the Bears is Ervin Baldwin, a second-year defensive end who spent time on both the practice squad and the active roster last year but is a longshot to make the club in 2009. Baldwin is all over the field for the Midway Monsters, recording four tackles and the first sack of his professional career. Offensively, free agent addition Michael Gaines is trying to convince the coaching staff to keep four tight ends, and he helped his cause in the third quarter reeling in a 25-yard touchdown strike down the middle from Caleb Hanie.
From the irony department, Rod Hood was cut Monday by the Browns, then signed Tuesday by the Bears and Thursday played against those same Browns that kicked him to the curb just three days before. The veteran corner has been on the field with both the starters and the scrubs, as the coaching staff needs to see as much from him as possible and determine if he can add some stability to what has been a shaky secondary throughout the preseason. You can't expect him to play that well since he's only had 48 hours to digest the Chicago scheme, but he has given up some catches – including a 29-yard fade down the left sideline to David Patten.
With only 15 minutes left in what has been, for the most part, a successful exhibition slate, the Bears are all tied up with the Browns 20-20 after an 18-yard scoring strike from Brett Basanez to Brandon Rideau.
Second Quarter Update: Browns 13, Bears 6
The Monsters of the Midway were murdered time and time again on the slant route last year, and Cleveland was obviously paying attention to the 2008 game tape. Two times in a row on third down, Browns quarterback Richard Bartel threw the slant to a wide-open receiver that easily beat the corner's outside-shoulder coverage technique – that's what the Bears teach. For what it's worth, freshly-signed veteran cornerback Rod Hood is already getting a lot of action with both the first- and second-team defense.
With Devin Hester getting the evening off, we're going to see a bunch of backups like Devin Aromashodu, Rashied Davis and Brandon Rideau to figure out who stays and who goes at the wide receiver position. Fans are wondering if the front office will scan the waiver wire this weekend to find an accomplished pass catcher and add him to the mix at the 11th hour, but maybe it would be a better idea to hunt for a guard or tackle. The second-unit offensive line has been terrible throughout the preseason, and nothing has changed against the Browns.
As the two teams head to the locker room for intermission, the Browns hold a 13-6 advantage in front of an apathetic Soldier Field faithful.
First Quarter Update: Browns 7, Bears 3
On his very first snap of the preseason, after missing three games and a bunch of training camp reps with a hamstring injury, Zack Bowman showed everyone what all the fuss is about. Cleveland QB Brett Ratliff took a three-step drop and fired a quick out near the right sideline, but Bowman jumped the route and came up with a diving INT. No matter who is healthy come Week 1 at Green Bay, the second-year pro out of Nebraska is going to be in the starting lineup and looks to be a star in the making.
Not only did Jay Cutler only play one series under center, but he didn't even attempt a pass. Following the Bowman interception in Cleveland territory, Cutler handed off to Kevin Jones – Matt Forte is taking the night off – six consecutive times before settling for a 43-yard field goal from Robbie Gould. Unfortunately for Jones, he went airborne near the right sideline on his seventh carry and got hit in midflight, causing him to land awkwardly on his left ankle.
The Browns have a 7-3 lead after 15 minutes of action, but Soldier Field is awfully nervous right now because Jones was carted off the and taken back to the locker room for X-rays.
Pregame Notes: Receiver Battle Pending
Offensively, the receivers are going to be tested, as it looks like either Rashied Davis or Brandon Rideau will be a memory by this weekend. While Davis is the more experienced player and extra productive on special teams, Rideau has more upside as a pass catcher and did pretty well for himself throughout training camp. Devin Aromashodu came to campus in Bourbonnais as a complete unknown to most Bears fans, but he impressed in the preseason and seems to have locked up the No. 3 wideout role behind starters Devin Hester and Earl Bennett.
On the other side of the football, an injured and ineffective secondary will again be under the microscope. We're starting to get the impression that Charles Tillman won't be ready for the season opener as he continues to rehab from back surgery, giving potential cuts like Trumaine McBride and D.J. Moore ample snaps to show what they can do against Cleveland. Both Zack Bowman and Danieal Manning are expected to play after missing the first three contests with hamstring issues, although it remains to be seen just how much.
It's an absolutely perfect evening for football in the Windy City, so sit back, relax and let Bear Report tell you what's really going on along Lake Michigan from inside the press box.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
JC's Gameday Blog: Browns vs. Bears
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