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Hub Arkush: Finale matters to some

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Bob Leverone)
Chicago Bears' Fendi Onobun (84) drops a pass in the end zone as Carolina Panthers' Jason Williams (54) and D.J. Campbell (26) defend during the first half of a preseason NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

I was going to start by asking how you’d feel about paying full price for a game in which almost none of the starters will play, and 40 percent of the guys who do play will then be fired within 42 hours of the final gun?

But hey, it’s been such a promising and positive preseason so far, why go negative now? Definitely a worthwhile topic for another time though.

Let’s keep the focus for now on the fact that the Bears exhibition game against the Browns more than matters to quite a few guys in their locker room. To quote backup tight end Fendi Onobun, “We’re fighting for our lives.”

As near as I can tell, the Bears have two quarterbacks, two running backs, four receivers, two tight ends, seven offensive linemen, six defensive linemen, five linebackers, seven defensive backs, Robbie Gould, Adam Podlesh, Devin Hester and Pat Mannelly, who almost certainly have made the team.

Who I believe they are really isn’t that important, but just for kicks and giggles I’ll list them in my 3-Point Stance and you can test me.

The point is, that leaves 14 roster spots to be won by the 36 guys still on the roster who will play against the Browns and don’t appear to have a job sewn up.

So while Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Roberto Garza, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, Peanut Tillman and all the other cool guys who don’t have to play against the Browns are sipping pina coladas on the sideline and checking out the action in the stands, we’ll have all the drama we possibly could want, a real live survivor game playing out on the still green grass of Soldier Field.

Maybe it is worth the price of admission?

My gut tells me Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards both will be gone Saturday. It just makes too much sense for the Bears to pick up a younger prospect they can teach the system to on the practice squad as long as Cutler and McCown both are healthy. They were the last two kids invited to the dance and one of them will have to really light it up to win a job.

Michael Ford probably has won the No. 3 running back job over Armando Allen, unless this Bears staff believes you can’t lose a job because of injury? If they do and if Allen is 100 percent, I’d look for both of these kids to treat every touch they get as if it’s the last play of the Super Bowl.

It’s not clear to me if Tony Fiammetta, Kyle Adams and Fendi Onobun are fighting for one job or two, or if the fullback and H-back are different or interchangeable in this offense. Either way, I expect two of the three to make it, one by being the best blocker against the Browns and the other the best receiver.

Receiver is the X-factor on the Bears’ final roster count. Assuming Eric Weems is one of them, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them keep five, six or seven, but it will only be six or seven if Joe Anderson and at least one of the other youngsters play like the most interesting men in the world against the Browns.

It seems the competition might already be over on the offensive and defensive lines and Marc Trestman and Phil Emery just have to see who’s healthy Saturday, and who will be soon, to make their final decisions. It would be crazy if Kyle Long and Jordan Mills didn’t get some work against Cleveland, but they both will be starting in Week 1.

The only two who could impact their futures with stellar play against the Browns are J’Marcus Webb and Zach Minter.

I suspect the linebacker decisions already have been made as well, but the secondary play against Cleveland will be fascinating to watch. There are eight defensive backs still on the roster besides the four starters and Isaiah Frey and any combination of three, four or five of them still could make the team.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

Hub Arkush's 3-Point Stance

1. To be clear, this prediction is based strictly on my observations throughout training camp and the preseason. I have not been told anything by anyone with the Bears. In addition to the 23 starters (I'm just lumping Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin at left end for now), it seems clear to me that Josh McCown, Michael Bush, Steve Maneri, Earl Bennett, Marquess Wilson, James Brown, Jonathan Scott, Nate Colins, Cornelius Washington, D.J. Williams, Khaseem Greene, Zack Bowman and Craig Steltz have made the 53-man roster. That's the 39 I wrote about in my column. I had my doubts about Bennett, but at this point they haven't shown the depth to be able to save his money.

2. Of the players I haven't mentioned, I'd give Blake Costanzo, Sherrick McManis. Michael Ford and Tony Fiammetta have the next best chances to be Bears. It's at this end of the roster that special teams really matter and these four can be difference-makers.

3. The position I'm least certain about is quarterback. For reasons I can't explain, Marc Trestman seems to really admire Jordan Palmer, maybe enough that he does stick.

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