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Bears report: 10 observations before preseason finale

Updated: August 27, 2013 4:02PM



The Bears’ season opener can’t get here soon enough. Coach Marc Trestman said Monday that “close to all the starters” will not play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field. Even backup quarterback Josh McCown — who looks like he can use the work — won’t be playing. Jordan Palmer will start and Trent Edwards likely will play the second half.

Though it turns the final preseason game into a bit of a charade, the Bears’ approach to Thursday night’s game finally puts the teams and fans/media on common ground at the conclusion of the preseason: They don’t want us to make judgments based on preseason games. And we don’t want to watch.

Here’s a capsule look at what happened at Halas Hall on Monday:

1. Henry Melton is getting closer to returning, but Earl Bennett is “day-to-day.” Both players, who are recovering from concussions, attended practice but did not participate. “Henry ran today,” Trestman said. “He’s going to run [Tuesday] and Wednesday and pick up that running significantly.”

2. Rookie Jon Bostic is not the starting middle linebacker yet. D.J. Williams, still recovering from a calf injury, had light participation in drills at practice and is day-to-day. Trestman downplayed the Bostic option when asked if he was getting comfortable with the idea of the second-round pick being the team’s starting middle linebacker against the Bengals.

“Well, I am not going to use that term ‘starting middle linebacker,’’’ Trestman said. ‘‘He has started in the last couple games and I think he has continued to grow and get better and shown that he can be a very good player in this league. He is getting better. He is fitting in and if he happens to be the guy who is that guy on Game 1 or Game 2 or whatever it is, I think he can grow into the position and be a more than sufficient middle linebacker in this league.’’

3. Rookie linemen Kyle Long and Jordan Mills might play against the Browns. Both have gotten extended preseason snaps by playing with the second team. But Trestman acknowledged both players are playing well.

‘‘I haven’t made a decision on whether we want to get them more work or not,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘But they did very well [against the Raiders]. I am not going to hide from the fact that they did very well last week and have continued to improve. I’m just not ready to go the distance on exactly what we are going to do as we move forward here. I can stand up here confidently and say they played well.‘‘

4. Fendi Onobun or Kyle Adams? If the Bears keep a fullback as they are expected to do, they likely will keep only three tight ends. Martellus Bennett is the starter and Steve Maneri looks like the blocker. That leaves room for either Onobun or Adams. Onobun, a former college basketball player like the Saints’ Jimmy Graham and the Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez, has the potential to be a big-play tight end but has had two big drops in the preseason. Adams, a third-year player who was undrafted out of Purdue in 2011, is a plain-Jane by comparison. But he is versatile and dependable.

One factor to consider is that the Bears could have 20-year-old rookie wide receiver Marquess Wilson on their 53-man roster. Jay Cutler doesn’t have a high tolerance for projects (see Webb, J’Marcus; or Hester, Devin). If Wilson is on the roster, it might be better for Cutler’s sanity to have the dependable Adams than the work-in-progress Onobun. In Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, this offense looks like it will have enough dynamic weapons to succeed as it is.

4a. Can the Bears’ roster afford two developing pass receivers? ‘‘That is a question we’re going to find out,’’ Trestman said, ‘‘because we’ve got a lot of guys sitting on the bubble that could go either way as we configure our roster, which is not dependent on the receiver or tight end position but a lot of other positions as well. That’s what we’re going to look to do over the weekend. But they’re both in the mix.’’

5. Marquess Wilson is making an impact. His reps with the first-team offense are one indication, but special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis gave him high marks for his work on special teams, which Wilson never had done before.

‘‘He’s bought into it,’’ DeCamillis told me. ‘‘He’s been tough. He’s put his face on people and he’s run well. So far, he’s shown good when there’s a contact situation. He’s done a good job for me when he’s been out there.”

6. Speaking of projects, Cornelius Washington could end up on the practice squad. He’s young and talented, but he’s far from ready.

‘‘He did some good things [against the Raiders],’’ defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said.‘‘He was in the backfield at the end. He ran well. He got some pressure on the quarterback. He did a nice job of reading a screen. He did a good job in the run game on a couple of plays. So there were some bright spots for him in that last outing.”

7. Matt Blanchard is still out indefinitely. Even 11 days after he suffered a fractured knuckle on his left (non-throwing) hand, the Bears’ No. 3 quarterback does not even know how his injury will be rehabilitated, let along when he’ll be able to return to practice.

“It’s disappointing,’’ he said. ‘‘But I think maybe by the end of the week or in a couple of days we’ll figure out exactly how we’re going to attack this.”

8. Undrafted rookie Zach Minter looks like a keeper. The high-motor defensive tackle from Montana State has made the most of his opportunity with Henry Melton out. So has Nate Collins.

‘‘Guys have stepped up [with Melton out],’’ Tucker said. ‘‘Nate Collins has done a nice job. You saw Zach Minter, he got some reps in there early with those guys, so that was good to see. It’s going to be interesting to see how it shakes out this week. Guys are going to play a lot of snaps and that’s always a challenge for those guys, so we’re looking forward to that.

9. Patrick Mannelly is back at practice. The 15-year veteran long-snapper has missed the last two games after suffering a rib injury against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 9. The Bears signed Brandon Hartson to fill-in for Mannelly. He likely will be cut when the Bears are convinced Mannelly is good to go.

10. Marc Trestman is battoning down the hatches. The first-year Bears coach has been cordial with the media, but with the regular season approaching, the less media intrusion the better. Trestman no longer gives opening statements in his press conferences, preferring to open things up to questions right away, presumably to save time. The team will be practicing Wednesday, but there will not be any media access. In fact, no assistant coaches will be available this week at all. That’s the way of the world in the NFL and won’t be a factor as long as the Bears just win, baby.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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