Bears vs. Browns
The fourth and final preseason game is the most hated game of the year. The coaches hate it. The players really hate it and the fans just want it over so the real games can begin. The best thing to hope for is no injuries and the only thing to be decided in this game is the final 3 or 4 roster spots.
Charlie Frye as well as most of the starters will only see one or two series of action in this one.
Charlie is coming off of his best preseason appearance against the Broncos. Charlie looked both comfortable and confident in Rob Chudzinski's new offense while hitting multiple targets and moving the ball well.
While it appears as if Charlie is set to begin the season as the starter, there are quiet a few questions remaining with the Browns quarterback situation. Rookie Brady Quinn has been the best quarterback for the Browns in preseason and another good showing could move him into the number two spot, thus placing himself in line for competition with Frye as the season progresses. Quinn has a much better arm than has been advertised. It doesn't take an expert to notice the flow of the game when Quinn is inserted and that flow comes from command ability. Leadership is what will get him in the lineup sooner rather than later. With a pre-season quarterback rating second only to Peyton Manning, the Quinn bandwagon can't make enough room for everyone jumping on board.
Ken Dorsey and Derek Anderson are in stiff competition for the final roster spot at quarterback. Dorsey has the best understanding of Chud's offense and is viewed as a mentor for Quinn. Anderson has the physical tools to be an NFL quarterback. This will be a difficult decision for the Browns to make.
Jamal Lewis should not even sniff the field against the Bears punishing defense. If he plays, it will only be a few snaps, but no snaps will have him healthy for the Steelers. Look for Jason Wright to receive the early reps with Jerome Harrison and Chris Barclay receiving the majority of carries in this one. The Browns may carry 4 running backs if Harrison and Barclay continue to shine not only as backs but also on special teams. Barclay with his return ability and Harrison making big stops on special teams coverage are proving their worth.
The Browns would be better served in resting starting receivers Joe Jurevicius and Braylon Edwards. The Browns had high hopes for Tim Carter taking over for Dennis Northcutt as the slot receiver but he has yet to prove that he can stay healthy or catch the ball consistently. Travis Wilson was a highly regarded third-round pick last year but he could be fighting for a spot on the practice squad. While Wilson and Carter are moving down the depth chart, Steve Sanders has survived the first cut and is gaining momentum.
Steve was one of my dark horse prospects entering camp last year as an undrafted rookie but failed to make the team. This year, however, he could find himself as the Browns slot receiver if he can put together a good effort against the Bears. He has decent size and speed but he also has a nose for the end zone, recording 14 touch downs his senior year at Bowling Green. Sanders has very quick feet and uses those feet to gain separation especially over the middle of the field.
The Browns offensive line has displayed the best and possibly the only real pass protection we have seen since the Browns rebirth. The star of the offensive line so far has been Center Hank Fraley. Hank appears bigger, stronger and faster than at any time in his career. Not only is he stonewalling the middle of the line, he is leveling anything in his path when he gets the opportunity to move into the second level. He should be even better when Steinbach and Tucker make their way into the starting lineup.
Kellen Winslow II should not even dress for this week's game.
The Browns defensive line has looked very sound at moments but there has been no consistency. Shaun Smith looks more suited as the nose tackle while Ted Washington is starting to look more suited for coaching. Shaun will move back to his more natural position when Orpheus Roye makes his return at defensive end.
The real concern with this line is the lack of depth behind the starters. Out of the backups, Babatunde Oshinowo has looked the best as he appears much bigger and stronger than last year. He has held his ground consistently and at times been quite impressive at forcing the double. The best of the ends has been Chase Pittman. He seems to have a knack for freeing up the linebackers and that is exactly what his position demands.
The Browns linebackers as a group have been the best unit on the field but they have also been prone to getting themselves out of position at the worst of times. Leon Williams has all the physical tools you look for in a linebacker, but Chaun Thompson is the player pushing his way back up the depth chart. I have been very impressed with Thompson the last two weeks while Leon is making the same mistakes that sent Chaun into the dog house by over pursuing plays and not maintaining his gap responsibility.
While Willie McGinest continues to rehab, ntwan Peek and David McMillan are making the best of their opportunity. David has earned a roster spot and likely earned some spot time playing duty. Peek however may have locked down a starting job even when Willie McGinest makes his return. Peek must improve versus the run but he has been outstanding at getting pressure in the pocket.
IIt has been a very quiet preseason for the safety combo of Sean Jones and Brodney Pool. Jones is finding out that holding a safety is not worthy of a flag in the NFL because every time he has blitzed, he has beat his man only to find himself being tackled with no flag in sight. Pool has been rather boring in preseason which isn't such a bad thing. He hasn't made the big plays that were expected but he also hasn't given up the big plays as I expected.
It is make or break time for one of my dark horse entries in cornerback: DeMario Minter. Minter has the talent to play at this level but injuries have kept him off of the practice field as well as the playing field. Minter could see a lot of action Thursday night as the Browns take more of a look at the backup corners.
The Bears had high hopes for their running game, but thus far their running game has provided little hope for the offense. Cedric Benson has struggled behind a banged-up offensive line averaging just 2.4 yards per carry. One positive for the Bears running game is rookie running back Garrett Wolfe. Wolfe is undersized but he will make an impact as the third down back. This young man is simply fun to watch whenever he touches the ball. The Browns will have to jam him hard at the line because the last thing you want is for this young speedster to get the ball with room to run.
Part of the problem with the running game is that teams aren't showing any respect for quarterback Rex Grossman. Rex hasn't played horribly but more is expected from him with opposition showing 7 or 8 in the box on a rather consistent basis. Rex does, however, manage to stretch the field and he isn't afraid to take risks. He has also made tremendous strides in getting rid of the ball much quicker than in the past.
The most improved player on the Bears offense looks to be receiver Bernard Berrian. Berrian is a speedster that is always looking for that open lane to go deep. He is a small receiver but he plays smart, knowing when to get down to avoid the big hit. He's also hard to get a grasp on once he gets the ball into his hands. Look for tremendous battle between Berrian and the Browns safeties as he likes to get into the slot where his speed is simply too much for most NFL safeties.
The Bears offensive line has yet to develop the chemistry they need. Left tackle John Tait, along with left guard Reuben Brown, have missed time due to injuries and have yet to play together. They are keys in not only the passing game but also in the run game. Tait going against Kamerion Wimbley should be the best battle of the night.
Defensive end Mark Anderson is one of the new breed of NFL defensive ends. He is similar to Wimbley in size, speed and pass rush ability. Keeping Anderson in check will be a huge test for rookie tackle Joe Thomas. This match up will be invaluable for measuring the progress of the young tackle.
It won't get any easier for the Browns interior offensive linemen as they face off against Dusty oracek and Tommy Harris. Harris is a pure beast in the middle. His power and quickness should present a tremendous challenge for Center Hank Fraley. This will be an excellent match up to prepare the Browns for the Steelers.
WiWith Browns fullback Lawrence Vickers out with an injury, Charles Ali will have his hands full with future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher gets going early and he never lets up but if you can frustrate him early he can be taken out of a game. Although that happens about as often as Romeo Crennel winning a review challenge. Urlacher will be involved as long as he is in the game and must be accounted for on every single play.
If the Bears have a weakness, it is their secondary, although I believe the
unit is somewhat underrated. The Bears defensive scheme is designed to allow the
play to happen in front of them and then either make a play on the ball or
annihilate the receiver. Look for the Browns to attempt running short passes and
trying to deflect the defensive backs. The key match up here will be Braylon
Edwards going against Charles Tillman and Ricky Manning Jr. Neither matches up
well physically with Edwards so they will have to play him much tighter than
they would like.
Roster spots will be earned in this one, especially on special teams. The best thing any fan can hope for is an injury-free game. Phil Dawson must snap out of his slump or the Browns will be bringing in kickers all week for competition.