Preseason Week 4 Preview: Browns at Bears
The final week of the preseason continues with the Cleveland Browns at the Chicago Bears. This is the last chance for many players to make their case to be on the opening season roster, whether it be as a role player, as part of a position rotation, or as a special teams player. Our team of PFF analysts have all the most important position battles and players to watch for each team:
Coverage by: David Neumann
Position Battle: Wide Receiver Nos. 3 – 6
- Hue Jackson has repeatedly voiced displeasure with his receiving corps during the preseason, and it’s not difficult to see why. Corey Coleman, Cleveland’s top wideout, has looked solid (78.3 overall grade) but the rest of this unit has left much to be desired. No other receiver who has played at least 40 snaps this preseason has earned a 70.0-plus grade, and all but one (Jordan Leslie) comes in well under 60.0. Veteran Kenny Britt is likely entrenched as the No. 2 option, but the pecking order for the remaining receiver roster spots is still murky.
- Josh Boyce, Jordan Leslie, Ricardo Louis, Rannell Hall, Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton are all playing for a more significant regular season role and/or roster spot against the Bears. Payton and Hall are the only players of that group averaging more than 1.00 yards per route run, coming in at 2.50 and 2.00, respectively. Louis and Higgins, the two returning wideouts with the most snaps played in 2016 after Coleman, have been especially disappointing. Both rank among the bottom 30 wide receivers in yards per route run out of 254 who have run at least 18 routes.
Players to Watch:
- Calvin Pryor III, S — Even though he was traded for this offseason, Pryor could find himself on the outside looking in when final roster cuts come. Pryor has performed well, earning a 75.0 overall grade across 71 snaps this preseason. But with the Browns opting for youth at many positions, his place as the team’s fourth safety — behind Jabrill Peppers, Ibraheim Campbell, and Derrick Kindred — is far from a sure thing.
- Matthew Dayes, RB — The rookie running back out of North Carolina State has been the most impressive Browns ball carrier this preseason (72.9 overall grade is best on the team) and figures to see a heavy workload in the preseason finale with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson likely to see minimal snaps. Dayes is averaging 1.82 yards after contact per attempt and his 3 missed tackles forced are the most on the team.
Coverage by: Lorin Cox
Position Battle: Deonte Thompson/Tanner Gentry/Titus Davis, WR
- Wide receiver Cameron Meredith tore his ACL last week against the Tennessee Titans, and the Bears are going to need at least one receiver at the bottom of the roster to step up to help fill the void.Thompson has been the Bears’ most targeted receiver this preseason (11), playing the second-most snaps among the team’s wide receivers (91). He hasn’t done a lot to make plays with the ball in his hands, though, as he only produced one yard after the catch on the six grabs he made so far.
- Gentry has been the fan favorite at training camp, connecting very well with Mitchell Trubisky. He’s been most-often targeted down field, with an average depth of target of 19.0 yards, the highest on the team. Bears quarterbacks have had a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeting him this preseason. After not playing in the team’s first preseason game, Davis has gotten 47 snaps on offense over the last two games, and only Kendall Wright has seen more targets (8) over that span. Four of Davis’ seven targets have come on curl routes with an average depth of 7.8 yards, catching two of them for 20 yards and dropping a third.
Players To Watch:
- Harold Jones-Quartey, S – Jones-Quartey played the third-most snaps of any Bears defensive back last season (731), but he still finds himself fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster. He’s only been targeted once in 39 coverage snaps this preseason, but he hasn’t generated any stops and needs to make a big push against the Browns to secure his job.
- William Poehls, OG – Poehls has played the second-most snaps of any Bears offensive lineman this preseason, splitting time between left guard (33), right guard (48) and right tackle (39). He gave up a sack, hit and hurry in 43 pass block snaps through the first three games, but the Bears are giving him plenty of opportunities to try and make a name for himself.
- Deiondre’ Hall, DB – The 2016 fourth-round pick has been moved all over the secondary this preseason as he tries to find a home on the 53-man roster. Four of his five targets have come while he’s lined up at cornerback, two of which were pass breakups by Hall while the other two were caught for a combined 28 yards.