Commentary

Bears-Browns exercise in boredom

Bears starters make brief cameo, backups audition for jobs

Originally Published: September 3, 2009
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

If we are to believe Bears head coach Lovie Smith -- and there is really no reason in this case that we should not -- there are "no tough decisions" regarding his final roster determination.

The Bears are going to have to "cut some good players," he said of this Saturday's deadline. But while the coach did get a final look at his players Thursday night in their final game of the preseason, the assumption is that Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo already knew who they wanted on their team.

[+] EnlargeBrett Basanez
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesBrett Basanez threw more passes than Jay Cutler or the Browns' Brady Quinn Thursday night.
"You can't lose a job or anything like that, but you can gain," Smith clarified.

If you get a chance, that is. And that was telling too, in the Bears' 26-23 exhibition victory over Cleveland.

Why, for example, was veteran receiver Rashied Davis not playing?

"He was a little banged up, " Smith said. "And we think we have a pretty good idea about his talent level and what he can do if he's on the football team."

That's a pretty big if-bomb the coach dropped there.

Did we know about rookie receiver Johnny Knox before Thursday, and his two receptions for 62 yards, a punt return for 38 yards and five kickoff returns for an average of 27 yards and a long of 50 yards? Or did we learn that his speed might come in handier than we thought this season?

We learned that any way you slice it, fourth preseason games are painful in more ways than one. Just ask backup running back Kevin Jones, who was carted from the sideline with an ankle injury.

One minute Adrian Peterson is wondering what he has done to deserve being the fourth running back on the depth chart; the next minute he's looking at backing up Matt Forte in the opener. But you suspect not much else was determined based solely on this night, except that the preseason is four games too long.

There were so many baseball caps on the Bears' sideline, it looked at any given time like a softball game might break out. Frankly, that would have been more entertaining than anything else that went on at Soldier Field on Thursday night. Or for that matter, at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon.

At one point in the second quarter, Bears fans were treated to an offensive line of Lance Louis, Johan Asiata, Donovan Raiola, Dan Buenning and Kevin Shaffer.

Browns head coach Eric Mangini thought so much of the fourth game of the NFL preseason he kept his top two quarterbacks, Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, out of the game.

Jay Cutler handed off to Kevin Jones six straight times and called it a night. Pregame warm-ups? "Didn't even bother," sniffed the Bears quarterback.

Why even play at all when he was just going to hand off six times?

"I have no idea," said Cutler, stifling a yawn.

Most of the defensive starters lasted exactly one play.

"We really didn't have any idea as far as how long we were going to play," said Nathan Vasher, who was in the precarious position of probably helping himself by not playing and thus not making any mistakes. "But Coach Smith told us we were pretty much done after that. It was a great gift he could give to us."

Actually, the gift came courtesy of Zack Bowman, who had an interception on his first play of the game and his preseason, after which the backups put on a clinic on how not to tackle in the NFL.

Cornerback Rod Hood, fresh off the waiver wire, had a team-high seven tackles, which was not necessarily a good thing, coming as they did after numerous receptions in his general vicinity.

"It's the best player right now, who we think will help us win the Green Bay game and from there," Smith said. "You talk about potential before we pick them. Now we put them all in together. We don't mind playing young players. Experience really doesn't matter."

They are all auditioning, they're told. If not for the Bears then for any one of 32 potential employers.

"It's tough because you never know what's going to happen," said receiver Brandon Rideau, in the mix of what has proved to be perhaps the toughest position group to predict. "You just have to show them you have some determination about yourself and pride in what you do. And then you have to just hope and pray they want to keep you around.

"You just never know."

No, but they do.

"It's always good to get to the end of the preseason," Smith said.

Amen to that.

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

MORE NFL HEADLINES