Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) - The Cleveland Browns host the Chicago Bears in the fourth and final preseason game Thursday night at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
It’s the ninth straight year that the two team meet to wrap up the preseason.
Call it the rubber-match since they have split the previous 8 meetings. The Browns lead the all time series with the Bears, 17-10, in games that do not count.
Brandon Weeden won’t play Thursday night along with an untold number of starters for the Browns. Head coach Pat Shurmur wants to make sure that he has the healthiest roster in place for the regular season opener Sept. 9 against Philadelphia.
“I think about injury for the first game,” Shurmur said. “I think about guys that need to show us more and guys going out there that want to compete and try to make this team. There’s a lot that goes into it. I wouldn’t read too much into who is in the game and who is not. You can try to predict who’s going to make it, but unfortunately at some positions, you’re just going to have to wait.”
Shurmur has kept most of the specific details about playing time under wraps, however Colt McCoy will start the game.
McCoy has been the first quarterback off of the bench in the first 3 preseason games as well. He has played the role usually reserved for the backup quarterback.
“I’m starting to feel very comfortable, but not in a way that I don’t need to continue to work,” McCoy said in a statement. “Having a year and an offseason within what we’re trying to do, I’m starting to really focus on a lot of other things other than just specifically our offense.
“I’m watching defenses, watching blitzes. I’m getting a grasp as a whole of what playing fast as a quarterback feels like.”
Like every other coach around the NFL, Shurmur will use Thursday night’s game to determine the futures of several players as well prior to the final cuts being due into the league office by 9 p.m. Friday.
“There’s a handful of decisions that we’re going to make come the final cuts that will be determined by how guys play in this game,” Shurmur said. “I think as they’re out there playing, we’re getting information about whether they’re going to be a member of the 53.”
Bears coach Lovie Smith is taking a similar approach by sitting most of his starters.
Aside from who will backup Weeden, Shurmur has a bunch of decisions to make based on Thursday night’s results.
Who will be the backup quarterback – McCoy or Seneca Wallace? Do you keep both Brad Smelley and Owen Marecic? Did Jordan Norwood nail down the sixth receiver spot? Who’s the third running back – Brandon Jackson, Chris Ogbonnaya or undrafted rookie Adonis Thomas? Should he go with Usama Young or David Sims as the backup strong safety?
Some decisions will come down to a numbers game – plain and simple but the film against the Bears will help Shurmur sort through those numbers.
The Browns will try to finish the preseason 3-1 for the first time since 2007 and have been .500 or better in 7 of the last 9 years – unfortunately that’s in games that don’t count.