Preseason games are another piece to the forming-the-roster puzzle. The fourth preseason game is the last piece, and the final opportunity for fringe roster players to make a good impression.
Those bubble players are not only playing to get on the Bears’ final roster, but also to show enough to the rest of the league so they can have options if they get cut.
This might be the least surprising list of our preseason series of “five players to watch.” Many roster spots are locked up, and we have shined the spotlight on these players since training camp began last month.
The coaches have plenty of puzzle pieces to consider when making their decision to cut 22 players by Saturday afternoon, and for these five bubble players, they want to make the last puzzle piece count in a positive manner.
Here are the five Bears to watch in tonight’s preseason finale against the Browns:
1. J’Marcus Webb: J. Webb Nation is under immense pressure. Webb has lost the starting job at right tackle to rookie Jordan Mills, and his fight now is to make the team as a backup swing tackle. His experience on both sides is valuable, and the fact that Jonathan Scott could not return from his knee injury this week helps Webb’s cause. Still, the preseason finale is important for Webb, who had two penalties in Oakland and has struggled with his consistency.
2. Brandon Hardin: The Bears’ third-round pick in 2012 has yet to make noise in the preseason. There obviously were high hopes for Hardin before his season-ending neck injury last August, but he has not played in a game that counts since 2010. Anthony Walters has been ahead of Hardin on the depth chart, and Hardin needs to show the skills that made him a third-round pick tonight.
3. Fendi Onobun: In three preseason games, Onobun has been targeted five times and has zero catches. He does have three drops, but the Bears seem to want it to work with the extremely athletic tight end. Marc Trestman called Onobun’s play in preseason games “uncharacteristically inconsistent,” lauding Onobun’s play in practice. As he competes with Kyle Adams and Steve Maneri to back up Martellus Bennett, Onobun would be best served to secure the football and get out of his funk in his final preseason game.
4. Armando Allen: A key special-teamer and change-of-pace third running back, Allen’s hamstring injury set him back, and allowed undrafted rookie Michael Ford to put on a show. Ford has a 100-yard kickoff return and a highlight-reel 15-yard touchdown run. Allen hasn’t played since Carolina. Assuming he’s healthy enough to get his reps, Allen might have some work to do to nail down his roster spot.
5. Terrence Toliver: There still is little clarity at the receiver position behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Earl Bennett’s concussion also factors in the team’s roster decisions. Eric Weems, Joe Anderson and Marquess Wilson appear to have the edge, which puts the onus on Toliver to stay in the picture.
He made some big plays during camp and got a few first-team reps against Oakland, but he only has one catch this preseason.