Defensively, in Thursday night 33-13 exhibition finale in Cleveland, David Bass was in a competition with veteran Austen Lane, Tracy Robertson and 2013 sixth-rounder Cornelius Washington for one — perhaps two — spots on the line, and was clearly the best of the bunch.
Lane also made plays, and the two teamed up to sack Johnny Manziel, only to have it nullified by a holding call. The Ferguson, Mo. native also had a sack-and-strip and moved inside for a few series, potentially enhancing his versatility. He made an impressive play in the third quarter, speeding outside to chase down a ball-carrier from behind. Washington made a play late on a red zone pass rush to force a field goal.
With four linebackers locked into spots, the question becomes who's worthy of two other spots — or three at the expense of other positions. Undrafted rookie Christian Jones played much of the game and showed flashes, and while Jerry Franklin led the defense with seven first-half tackles, the staff's left to ponder whether Jones can match what Franklin now provides on teams. Khaseem Greene played two early series and then sat, so the second-year man looks 53-bound.
In the secondary, Chris Conte (concussion), Ryan Mundy, Danny McCray and rookie Brock Vereen didn't see the field. M.D. Jennings played most of the game, highlighted by a fumble recovery after a questionable roughing-the-passer call. His fate appears up in the air, depending on the level of trust in Conte's recovery, both physically and psychologically.
Marcus Trice had a big, helmet-removing hit to break up a completion early, then got lost on a pass play and run over by a running back. Demontre Hurst can play both corner and safety, but a nice breakup in the red zone was countered by a pass interference penalty later. He also missed a tackle when Isaiah Crowell burst through the line in the fourth quarter on a 48-yard run, and Jennings couldn't chase him down until the end zone.
Al Louis-Jean was in on the forced fumble recovered by Jennings, but was giving a lot of cushion on a couple of early Cleveland completions and was beaten on what turned into a Manziel overthrow in the end zone. C.J. Wilson again seemed the most steady of those fighting for a spot, making a great break on what was nearly his third interception this preseason (which he should've held on to). He also had solid coverage on a third-and-five in the red zone just before halftime, and collected another breakup in the third.
The Bears must cut 22 players by Saturday to get down to the 53-man regular season limit. They can begin forming their practice squad Sunday.