A look at which Bears will be playing for their professional lives in tonight’s fourth preseason game in Cleveland:
At this time a year ago, DavId Fales fended off Zac Dysert — who was signed two days before the fourth exhibition — by playing the game of his life. Against the Browns, he completed 14-of-18 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns, finishing with a quarterback rating of 134. Fales started the season as the Bears’ third quarterback and finished it as their backup, but still never threw an NFL pass.
He has the same opportunity to stick this year, but with far less momentum.
He seemed a likely cut candidate — he didn’t play in the second or third exhibition game — until Connor Shaw suffered a grisly broken leg Saturday.
The Bears didn’t sign a fourth quarterback just for the week this time around, meaning Fales will get most of the snaps Thursday night against the Browns.
The lack of playing time was “obviously frustrating,” said the third-year quarterback who didn’t even enter Saturday after Shaw was hurt.
“It’s nothing I can control,” he said. “All I can worry about is myself, and focus on what I can do and keep trying to get better. It is frustrating. You wanna go out there and play and get an opportunity.”
The lesson he learned from last year: relax.
“Just have fun and be decisive,” he said this week. “At that point, I kinda knew how the situation was panning out and I really didn’t care, and I just went out and had fun.”
He let go of his worries.
“I was enjoying the game,” he said. “It was an opportunity to play and put myself on tape. I was just excited. Didn’t overthink it. Didn’t make it bigger than it was.”
Do well, and Fales could stick as the Bears’ third quarterback, be it as an inactive player on Sundays or a practice squad player.
Calling them “one of the most talented groups I’ve ever been around,” Eddie Royal is excited to see which receivers perform well Thursday.
Assuming the Bears keep Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Marc Mariani and Royal — and decide their best special teamer, Josh Bellamy, is worth hanging on to — three healthy players are likely fighting for one spot: seventh-round rookie Daniel Braverman, vet B.J. Daniels and Illinois State alum Cameron Meredith.
Daniels returned kicks Saturday for Deonte Thompson, who has hurt his ankle in New England and hasn’t practiced since. Marquess Wilson is on the physically unable to perform list after breaking his foot in minicamp.
“That’s probably one of the deepest positions on the team,” coach John Fox said.
‘Leap of faith’
Nick Kwiatkoski needs Thursday more than any other Bears player — if he can play. The inside linebacker left practice July 30 with a hamstring injury and hasn’t practiced much since, although he returned to limited action this week.
The first of three Bears fourth-round picks, his pedigree is too good to clear waivers. But the Bears still don’t know what they have in the West Virginia alum.
“Truth be told, we didn’t see a whole lot of him,” Fox said. “Obviously, we evaluated him on his college tape. Saw him in some of the offseason stuff. …
“He’s been in meetings. He’s been with us. But as far as our true evaluation, it’s a little bit of a leap of faith.”
Starter Zach Miller figures to sit Thursday, leaving the tight ends behind him to try to prove their worth for the fourth-straight game. Vets Tony Moeaki and Rob Housler have been solid; Greg Scruggs and Khari Lee are purely blockers; and Ben Braunecker might see his first game action, exactly a month after leaving practice with an ankle injury. The undrafted rookie from Harvard could be practice squad-bound.
“Everyone does something different,” Miller said. “We kind of have a whole group of guys that can do things together.”
Still, the Bears figure to watch the cut lists for upgrades.
Eye the sideline
Last year against the Browns, the Bears had 30 players who didn’t play. Only one of those failed to make the team two days later: A.J. Cruz, who was benched because of, and then waived with, a foot injury.
Fox, of course, wouldn’t admit players who sit Thursday have made the club.
“I just say that we’ll kinda make the decisions we make for that game,” he said. “We’ll get through that game, come home and then start the process of picking the team.”