The fourth and final preseason game is almost strictly for players who are battling it out to make the final roster.
Starters, if they even play, generally get one series or so before getting pulled which is the smart move. No offense to those fighting for their professional lives, but the most important thing about Week four of the preseason is to make sure no starters get injured.
So why watch this last game if it is going to be dominated by scrubs and back ups? Well here are five battles to watch that could impact the Bears in the regular season...
1. The Final Linebacker Spot: Tim Shaw vs Brian Iwuh
Shaw was the best special teams player on the Chicago Bears last season by far, recording 24 tackles on special teams, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He was also named to the 2009 All-Joe Team, which is a list of players that the USA Today felt were the most underrated players who did the most.
(Although some former past Joe's from the Bears include Kevin Payne and Garrett Wolfe... so maybe it isn't all that good of list to make.)
Iwuh has a slight advantage over Shaw in the sense that he was part of the Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker rotation over the past couple seasons. Also billed as a special teams ace, Iwuh was hurt early in camp but came on strong, intercepting two passes in his first practice back and playing well this past week against the Cardinals.
Which ever player makes the roster (and it is very unlikely that both make it. Six linebackers is a pretty good number, seven is almost unheard of) the expectations will be that that player will be the top special teamer on the roster.
2. Defensive Lineman: Henry Melton vs Jarron Gilbert
Both players were drafted last season, Gilbert in the third round and Melton in the fifth but neither have wowed coaches in camp.
Expect the Bears D-line to consist of the following: Tommie Harris, Anthony Adams, Julius Peppers, Mark Anderson, Israel Idonije, Corey Wootten and Marcus Harrison.
With those seven, expect the Bears to keep two more players, maximum. One of those spots should go to Matt Toeaina, who has played very well through the first three weeks of the preseason, leaving the two mid round draft picks from a year ago to battle it out for the last spot.
Melton spent all of last season on the IR list as he continued to adjust to the defensive end position (he played running back for his first couple years in college). Gilbert saw minimal game action last season but participated fully in practices.
The real question may not come down to who is better or more ready. It may come down to numbers. Peppers, Anderson, Izzy and Wootten are all defensive ends. Harris, Adams, Harrison and Toeaina are all defensive tackles. So which position do the Bears need more depth at?
The answer is more than likely defensive end. Despite there being four at each, the defensive end position has more questions marks on it once you get past Peppers and Idonije has seen significant time at the defensive tackle position, so he could fill in there if needed.
If that ends up being the case, then expect the Bears to go with Melton. If they just go with the best available, look for Gilbert to make the roster and Melton to get pushed towards the practice squad.
3. Third String Running Back: Kahlil Bell vs Garrett Wolfe
Bell came out of nowhere in the middle of last season when he broke off a 72 yard run in the second quarter of a loss against the Eagles. Going into his second season, Bell has shown some abilities to make plays on special teams as well, so he is not just a one dimensional back, but he would not be the change-of-pace back that most teams look for in their third string running back.
Wolfe would be the change-of-pace back and the more experienced special teamer of the two.
That said, the Bears have been waiting for for three years for Wolfe to be that explosive change of pace player they thought they were drafting. The Bears seemed to hope that Wolfe would be a Darren Sproles type of player, coming in during certain situations and be insanely elusive.
So far though, he has not lived up to the billing. Some of that may be attributed to former offensive coordinator Ron Turner, but even during preseason, Wolfe looks like he is just a step to slow to be a 5'7" running back in the NFL.
The real test in this final preseason game may actually be who can block better. Given his size, the advantage would seem to go towards Bell.
4. Final Three Cornerback spots: D.J. Moore vs Corey Graham vs Joshua Moore vs Tim Jennings vs Woodny Turenne
A five man competition for the three spots (assuming they go with five cornerbacks on roster). D.J. Moore has looked solid in preseason and Graham has gotten some extensive time on the field, so look for both of them to grab a spot.
That leaves rookie fifth round draft pick Joshua Moore, former Indianapolis Colts corner Tim Jennings and seasoned Bear training camp and practice squad member Woodny Turenne.
Now the feel good pick would be Turenne who was signed last season, cut, then signed to the practice squad for the remainder of the year. But the Bears did give Joshua Moore a four year contract and he has shown some positive things through the first three preseason games.
Jennings has by far the most experience and is a solid special teams player as well. In his three years with the Colts, he recorded 126 tackles and two interceptions.
So if any one of the three can make a significant impact in the final preseason game, that should make them the front runner for the final spot.
5. Back Up Quarterbacks: Todd Collins vs Caleb Hanie vs Dan Lefevour
This is the most interesting match up. Each player have different factors that work in their favor.
Collins is the experienced veteran and was just given a nice little signing bonus, which teams generally do not give if they feel the player is will be cut before the regular season.
Hanie has been the back up for the past couple season and seemingly improved year after year. Although a shoulder injury suffered in week one could hurt his chances.
Lefevour is a sixth round pick that many consider one of the biggest steals of the draft. In the most recent game, Lefevour went 10-12 for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Now in a perfect world, Collins and Hanie would stay on as Cutler's reserves and Lefevour would get moved to the practice squad where he can get in reps and develop. The only problem with that scenario is that many feel if Lefevour is placed on waivers, another team will snag him.
So what do you look for in this final game? See how well Collins and Lefevour play. If both do outstanding and Hanie either doesn't play or does poorly in his time, he could be in a little trouble.
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