Chicago Bears defensive end Cornelius Washington sacks Oakland Raiders quarterback Matthew McGloin (14) during the fourth quarter of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. The Bears won 34-26. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Updated: September 27, 2013 6:33AM
The Bears said goodbye to 14 players Sunday — making their first round of cuts before the 75-man deadline Tuesday — but it’s just the start of a busy week.
Yep, it’s the time of year for late-night meetings and cutthroat decisions.
The Bears practice Monday and Tuesday, play the Cleveland Browns in their last exhibition Thursday and have to cut their roster down to 53 players by 5 p.m. Saturday.
Coach Marc Trestman prefers three quarterbacks, but injuries at other positions might prevent that.
Either way, the Bears will give Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards opportunities to prove themselves against the Browns. At the very least, they’ll be more familiar with Trestman’s system and the Bears’ playbook should they be cut and needed later.
The Bears like Matt Blanchard, but his broken knuckle has complicated matters. An injury settlement might be in his future.
Matt Forte and Michael Bush are locks, and if the preseason is an indicator, there also is a place for fullback Tony Fiammetta in Trestman’s offense. Fiammetta also can play on special teams.
Undrafted rookie Michael Ford’s big preseason has him in line to supplant Armando Allen, who has been limited by a hamstring injury. But Ford has to continue to prove he can handle roles other than kick returner on special teams.
It’s possible that the Bears keep only five receivers with Devin Hester now solely a kick returner. But Trestman likes options, and that could mean four spots could be there behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Eric Weems’ special-teams prowess should secure him a spot, and the Bears are still keen on Earl Bennett, the No. 3 receiver before his concussion. So it’s on Joe Anderson and rookie Marquess Wilson to hold off others, mainly Terrence Toliver, and that includes on special teams.
J’Marcus Webb should be sweating the return of Jonathan Scott, who worked out Friday for the first time since undergoing minor surgery on his right knee. Scott’s status might be the only thing preventing the Bears from releasing Webb.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod, left guard Matt Slauson, center Roberto Garza, right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills are the starters right now. James Brown should be the swing guard, and Scott will be entering the competition at swing tackle with Eben Britton and Webb.
It should be noted that Britton has been practicing at center, while second-team center Taylor Boggs has seen time at guard, too.
Trestman has used three-tight-end sets in the preseason, and that No. 3 spot behind Martellus Bennett and Steve Maneri is a competition between Fendi Onobun and Kyle Adams after Sunday’s cuts.
Onobun has the size and athleticism, but his drops are problematic and probably made this more of a competition. But Adams is pretty versatile himself. He can be an H-back-type player and a valuable part of special teams.
Henry Melton and Stephen Paea (one of the Bears’ best players this preseason) are entrenched, and Nate Collins has emerged as a solid backup (if not a starter on other teams).
Undrafted rookie Zach Minter’s cause was aided by injuries to others, but his wrecking-ball ways already were making a huge impression. Minter rotated in with the first-team defense against the Raiders.
Corvey Irvin, who has an ankle injury, and Christian Tupou have some work to do.
Rookie Cornelius Washington, a sixth-round pick, had a breakout game (by exhibition standards) against the Raiders. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the Bears’ highest-rated player. Washington’s development likely spurred the release of Kyle Moore.
But is it enough to secure a spot behind Julius Peppers, Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin?
Cheta Ozougwu was getting snaps with the first team before injuring his hamstring, and Aston Whiteside has made plays this preseason.
Injuries have led to more opportunities behind Pro Bowlers Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.
Isaiah Frey has a stranglehold on nickel back, while undrafted rookie C.J. Wilson saw some time with the second-team defense in Oakland, made an interception and should have had two.
Zack Bowman’s hamstring injury could help Sherrick McManis and undrafted rookie Demontre Hurst.
The main question is whether 2012 third-round pick Brandon Hardin makes the team. Hardin, who was on IR last year with a neck injury, had an unimpressive training camp followed by a quiet preseason.
Chris Conte and Major Wright are the starters, and Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters are the top backups and are valued special-teamers.
Local product Tom Nelson (Illinois State, Hersey) remains in the mix with Hardin, while Tom Zbikowski (Notre Dame, Buffalo Grove) was cut.
D.J. Williams should still be in line for a spot despite being out for weeks with a calf injury. It suits the Bears to have a veteran behind rookie Jon Bostic in the middle.
That leaves the team with a linebacking corps of Lance Briggs, James Anderson, Khaseem Greene, Bostic and Williams.
After them, Blake Costanzo is a leader on special teams, where Greene figures to have a prominent role, putting J.T. Thomas and Jerry Franklin on the bubble.
Kicker Robbie Gould and punter Adam Podlesh have no competition.
Long snapper Patrick Mannelly (ribs) is expected to be ready for the season opener, although rookie Brandon Hartson has done well in his place.
The Bears appear content with Hester taking up a roster spot just as a kick returner. With a specialized role, Hester has looked more like his old self this preseason.