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Game Preview: Browns-Bears

Posted Aug 28, 2013

CHICAGO -- The Cleveland Browns conclude the 2013 preseason with tonight’s game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

CHICAGO -- The Cleveland Browns close out the 2013 preseason tonight against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, and although the most of the Browns’ starters and Chicago’s first-teamers will not be on the field, there is plenty of importance for the last exhibition game.

The value and importance within the final preseason game comes from additional time to evaluate the younger players on the team, as well as those competing for a spot on the 53-man roster.

“This Chicago game will give us an opportunity to see more guys play, give us one last opportunity to assess them, and we’re looking forward to that,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “Generally, the guys that are with the ones would get 10-12 reps, but there’s a number of situations that need to play out in terms of the specifics of who’s going to play.

“It’ll be an important game from an evaluation standpoint. A lot of people don’t think of that fourth preseason game as being important, but it is from an evaluation standpoint of that group of guys on the roster.”

Earlier in the week, the Browns had to cut their roster down from 90 players to 75. Following tonight’s preseason game against the Bears, the Browns will have to be down to the league-mandated 53-man limit by Saturday night.

“It’s a busy time, not only evaluating our own players, but also, players from other teams that may have been released,” Chudzinski said. “It’s a fluid situation. (General manager) Michael Lombardi and the scouting staff are working tirelessly, evaluating and looking at the different potential situations out there.

“For the most part, the guys that are going to play and get a significant amount of time will be the guys we really want to look at. (We’ll) give them the opportunity to go play three quarters or whatever it is, and get a chance to see them.”

In evaluating the preseason game film and training-camp practice footage, versatility takes on added importance to the talent evaluators as they shape the roster that will be on the field for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins.

“It is not as easy as saying it’s between ‘this guy’ and ‘this guy’ a lot of times,” Chudzinski said. “For one thing, there are other positions, so you are balancing a player at one position to a player at another position. Sometimes, they’re not even on the same side of the ball. Then, there are always things that happen.

“If you look two weeks ago at what you thought the roster was going to be, things change really quickly in games. Injuries and those things play a part in that. I mentioned back then that I have been around where you did all those things then, but really, you can’t do it until all of the dust settles. As I mentioned before, there are guys who are getting released from other teams, too, that potentially play into the mix.”

Chudzinski will use tonight’s game against the Bears as an opportunity not only to evaluate the Browns’ youngest players, but also look at injured athletes who have missed time during training camp and the preseason.

Four-year veteran wide receiver David Nelson is such a player. After catching 92 passes for 1,011 yards and eight touchdowns in 31 of a possible 32 games during his first two seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Nelson missed 15 games due to a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) suffered in last year’s season opener against the New York Jets.

“He’s practiced the last week or so, and we’ve just wanted to be careful,” Chudzinski said. “He hasn’t been in a real game situation for over a year, so getting him out there on Thursday, we’re excited about it. I’m excited to see him. He’s looked good in practice.

“He’s taken every step along the way to get better. He has a good understanding. From a mental standpoint, he’s stayed involved and knowing what to do.”