The Chicago Bears will take on the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field on Thursday night for their final preseason game, but don’t expect to see many familiar faces prowling the Midway.
That’s because the team is going to bench most of its starters, according to head coach Marc Trestman, who said he wanted to get everyone to the regular season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals unscathed. Quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Josh McCown will not play in the contest, and the QB duties that night will be handled by Jordan Palmer, who will start, and Trent Edwards.
While the full list of who will play and who won’t play has yet to be revealed by the team, there are a couple of intriguing players whose statuses for that night are up in the air.
Kyle Long, who has been playing right guard during the preseason, and Jordan Mills, who has been playing right tackle, are both looking as though they will be Week 1 starters for the Bears (at least it would appear so, since they have the backing of a slew of key figures in the organization, including running back Matt Forte), but it is not clear whether or not they will be suiting up with their teammates on Thursday night, or if they will get to watch from the safe environs of the sidelines.
Obviously, the case for them to sit out is a strong one. Several teams, including the Green Bay Packers, have already lost key contributors to their offensive lines for the season due to knee injuries during this preseason, and New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan has been under fire for playing QB Mark Sanchez during garbage time minutes over the weekend against the New York Giants.
Leaving open the possibility of getting Mills or Long hurt has to be an idea that would give Trestman pause, but especially in Long’s case, the potential benefits may outweigh the possible consequences. For a player who barely started any games at the collegiate level, and who is still learning the ropes of a new position (he played left tackle for Oregon), the extra quarter or two of action against the Browns, which could be viewed as unnecessary to more seasoned players, could actually prove valuable down the road.
In addition, it would give Long and Mills the opportunity to further cement their chemistry on the right side of the line, something that the Bears are in desperate need of. With only one player, center Roberto Garza, returning to the position he occupied last year on the line, whether or not the linemen can correctly execute their blocking schemes when the season kicks off next Sunday is going to depend largely on how those five men mesh together.
Even with that significant benefit as a possibility, it would probably still be in the Bears’ best interests to hold Long and Mills out of the game. Neither has been through the rigors of a 16 game NFL schedule before, and even one quarter of action seems like an unnecessary waste of their energy, as well as a needless move that would open them up to potential injury.
The vanilla playcalling that the Bears are sure to employ with the regular season so close will also do little to benefit Mills and Long. The blocking schemes aren’t going to be fully implemented in such a situation, and with a limited playbook being available because of the fact that two quarterbacks who are still trying to learn the system will be behind center, it’s going to be even more noticeable.
What’s your take on the potential decision to play Mills and Long, Bears fans? Should the team try to get them as many reps against hostile forces as possible, or save them for September 8th?