For a team virtually settled on its personnel for most positions, the fourth preseason game is less than insignificant except for a few players still competing for a roster spot on the team or one on somebody else’s roster. The Bears are anything but settled heading into preseason Game 4 Thursday against the Cleveland Browns.
"Being a new staff – being totally honest – we’re evaluating everybody,” said coach John Fox. “We’re only going to be our fourth time Thursday night seeing these guys play in our system. We’re still going to be learning when we get to the regular season. It’s been my experience in two other stops, again it’s not how you start the race, it’s how you finish. We’re getting ready to start that race.”
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Exactly who plays how much and where wasn’t made clear by Fox. But the Bears are unsettled at two-fifths of their offensive line because of performance issues, and fraught with unknowns at wide receiver because of injuries that could force them to use an extra roster spot in order at the position group as a hedge against Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal or Marquess Wilson not holding up in-season or even not being ready to open the season vs. Green Bay.
“As I’ve mentioned a lot of times,” Fox said, “I’d prefer [the receivers] were out here. But until they’re cleared medically, I don’t have them.”
The single most intriguing focus Thursday is on the right side of the Bears’ offensive line. Neither Charles Leno nor Jordan Mills have laid a solid claim on the tackle job that has been Mills’ most of the past two years. Coaches last season considered moving Mills, struggling with a foot injury from Game 16 of the 2013 season, to left guard after injuries to Matt Slauson. His job security hasn’t improved significantly.
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Mills is expected to start at right tackle and Vladimir Ducasse at right guard. The play of each may determine where Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long is positioned.
“I don’t really have a preference,” Long said. “I’d like to help the team wherever that is. I’m really sincere when I say that. If they ask me to play receiver, I’d be out there running routes now, practicing. It’s football. It’s not that complicated.”