The curious pregame decision by the Bears' staff to keep veteran wide receiver/kick returner candidate Michael Spurlock inactive could've possibly done more to hurt than help him. Perhaps he was considered "in" if no one impressed in the 33-13 loss Thursday night in Cleveland, "out" for the final 53 if another candidate or two stepped up.
But Josh Bellamy and Santonio Holmes did their jobs in the first half, and we'll have to see if that leaves Spurlock on the outside looking in.
Bellamy was terrific going against a first-team-heavy Browns defense, grabbing four David Fales passes for 78 yards, as well as drawing a 37-yard pass interference call that set up a field goal on the game-opening drive. Fales' first two passes to Holmes resulted in a catchable drop in heavy traffic, and being well-covered on a short crossing route. But then came a dose of the "old" Santonio, as Holmes burned first-round draft pick Justin Gilbert on a great spin move to the outside after a short catch, then speeding down the sideline for a 32-yard touchdown. After the Browns' following series, Holmes received the punt, made a first tackler miss, spotted an opening, and returned it 30 yards before being taken down.
Josh Morgan was held out Thursday night after earning a spot in the two previous exhibitions playing behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. If the Bears decide to keep Marquess Wilson on the 53-man (meaning they'd expect him to return from his fractured shoulder before mid-season), that takes four spots. Would they keep Bellamy, Holmes, and Spurlock?
Chris Williams' first appearance since his hamstring-pulling touchdown three weeks ago afforded him three kickoff returns after two touchbacks. After an uninspiring 23-yarder to the 16 just before the half, his burst was on better display on the first of two 29-yard returns in the second half. He added a 14-yard reception among two catches, but, like Spurlock, isn't higher than seventh on the wideout depth chart if Wilson isn't placed on short-term injured reserve.
The other factor in the kick return game was undrafted rookie Senorise Perry, whose game-opening opportunity resulted in a touchback. He had a 23-yarder in the final quarter. As for his competition with Shaun Draughn to back up Matt Forte and Ka'Deem Carey (held out Thursday), Draughn had runs of five, six, seven and eight yards among his 29 on 10 carries, but doesn't provide what Perry might on special teams. Perry had a seven-yard run, but otherwise managed just seven on five other carries. Jordan Lynch was not going to be a 53-man possibility and didn't play in the offense until the fourth, when he gained 18 yards on six straight carries in one series of action.
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On the offensive line, Eben Britton also played for the first time this preseason, at right tackle the first couple of series, so the veteran swingman should be set to go in Week 1. Michael Ola was inactive, so it appears the former CFL player for Marc Trestman might be in good roster shape.
David Fales had his moments in the first half, completing 11-of-17 for 129 yards and a 107.2 rating. But he was just 2-of-7 for 17 yards after intermission. I'd have to think the team wouldn't expose him, hoping he'd sneak through waivers trying to move him to the practice squad. They like his future backup capability and it'd be a waste of a sixth-round draft choice.
The Bears must make their final 22 roster cuts by Saturday afternoon.