NFL Preseason Preview: 4 Things to Watch in Browns vs. Bears Finale
This is the final shot for players on the cusp of being cut to show that they have what it takes to make the team.
Browns head coach Pat Shurmur has already announced that none of his starters will play against the Bears. That means that the players vying for the final spots on the roster will get their best chance to prove themselves against Chicago.
Here are four things Browns' fans should watch for in the 2011 preseason finale.
4: Who Shines at Running Back
Browns' RB Montario Hardesty
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With the news that newly signed running back Brandon Jackson may miss a significant portion, if not all, of the 2011 season, the Browns' backup running backs have an better chance of breaking camp on the final roster.
Since starter Peyton Hillis will not play against the Bears, Montario Hardesty will likely to start the game. He will probably play about one quarter, and then the backups will get their shot.
Browns' fans should watch to see how Armond Smith and Quinn Porter perform in the game. One of those two players is likely to make the final roster, and although their performances in the game will not be the only thing the coaching staff considers when making its decision, a strong showing could go a long way in their quest to make the cut.
3: How Seneca Wallace Performs
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As Colt McCoy watches from the sidelines, Browns' backup quarterback Seneca Wallace will start the preseason finale under center.
Wallace has a lot of experience in the West Coast offense, which has been newly installed as the Browns' offensive style, and could be an important player this season. If something unexpected were to happen, the Browns need to know that they could rely on Wallace to step in and play.
Browns' fans should watch how Wallace plays against the Bears. Important things to look for are his decisiveness when choosing to throw the ball or scramble, and his accuracy. Both of those things plagued Wallace during his playing time last season.
Fans should also keep an eye on third-string quarterback Jarrett Brown. The former West Virginia Mountaineer has made a name for himself in training camp and during his limited playing time this preseason. He will likely play in the second half against the Bears and could open a lot of eyes with his playing ability.
2: Who Makes Plays at Wide Receiver
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One of the areas on offense where the Browns lack talent is the wide receiver position. That means that the young receivers fighting to make the final roster have a decent chance of doing just that if they can show the coaches that they can catch the ball and make plays.
With the starters on the bench for the entire preseason finale, the wide receivers will have four quarters to show what they can do.
Mohamed Massaquoi, injured for most of training camp, may get some playing time against the Bears. He was a starter last season but has been unable to get on the field this preseason due to a bone chip in his left foot. He is guaranteed to make the final roster, but he can relieve a lot of doubts with a decent performance in Chicago.
Other receivers that Browns fans should keep their eyes on are Jordan Norwood, Demetrius Williams, Rod Windsor, and Carlton Mitchell. Mitchell especially should see playing time after returning from finger surgery. The Browns think Mitchell can be a starter in the NFL, so his showing in the preseason finale will be interesting to watch.
1: Who Emerges at Linebacker
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One of the thinnest positions on the Browns' roster is linebacker. Beyond the three projected starters, the backup positions are up for grabs. This is especially true considering that number one backup linebacker Titus Brown is out for several weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
The preseason finale against the Bears will be a big test for the linebacker corps. Who will step up and show that they have what it takes to make the final roster?
Several players to watch are Kaluka Maiava, Brian Smith, Steve Octavien, and Eric Gordon.
The game against Chicago will likely be a large part of the decision as to who makes the team as the backup linebackers.
Browns' fans should keep a close eye on who stands out throughout the game.