Marc Trestman and staff have typically held off on announcing lineup changes each week, even in preseason, until the final day or two before each game. So it was perhaps a slight surprise when Trestman said Monday that rookie David Fales would start in Cleveland against the Browns on Thursday.
That will not be the final change in the starting lineups, however. Various other possibilities make for some intriguing sub-plots in the ongoing dual processes of evaluation and orientation. “We’re going to talk more about that tomorrow after practice,” Trestman said.
[RELATED: Fales finally gets his shot against Browns]
If Trestman’s first Preseason Game 4 was any indication, not one offensive or defensive starter even played last season against the Browns. If more than a handful of starters play this Thursday, that will qualify as a surprise.
Of considerably greater interest will be who does play, how well and where.
Linebacker Lance Briggs won’t play. Khaseem Greene is listed as No. 2 on the depth chart and started for Briggs last year at this time. D.J. Williams has effectively secured the No. 1 spot at middle linebacker but Jonathan Bostic is in need of more work, as is Shea McClellin at strong-side linebacker.
The wild card since he signed as an undrafted rookie free agent has been Christian Jones, who intercepted a couple of passes in practice Monday and has been given looks at strong-side linebacker.
“Those guys have continued to progress,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “Guys are becoming more comfortable in what we’re asking them to do. I feel like they’re playing fast and physical. Christian had a real nice day today...
“We’ll see at the end of the week, take a look at it before we go and make those decisions. I would anticipate Christian getting some more opportunities in the game.”
Chris Conte was held out of practice on Monday as he works through the concussion protocol, necessitated after he received a concussion on a hit during the Seattle game. Conte is very much in the competition with Danny McCray for the free-safety job, but risking him coming off a concussion is a longshot. McCray has established what he offers, meaning that rookie Brock Vereen is a good bet to start vs. Cleveland alongside M.D. Jennings.
Expect Santonio Holmes and Josh Morgan to open at the wide receivers, with Chris Williams worked in situationally early. But Holmes and Morgan are both expected to be on the final roster that should include six receivers to cover for Marquess Wilson’s injury, so their playing time will be short, if Holmes even plays at all, given his NFL resume.
Rookie Ka’Deem Carey has improved steadily through camp and the preseason, and it remains to be seen how much coaches feel they need to see of both him and Shaun Draughns.