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Keys to Victory: What we're watching vs. the Bears

The Browns travel to Chicago for Thursday's preseason finale against the Bears.

Here are four things we're watching.

1. Last chance to impress

As the Browns prepare to trim their roster down to 53, Thursday night's game in Chicago marks the last chance to impress the coaching staff and Cleveland's front office.

Among several position battles, the Browns should get a better idea of their pecking order at receiver, depth on both of the offensive and defensive lines and a kicker competition between Cody Parkey and rookie Zane Gonzalez (more on that later).

"There are some battles that are going on," head coach Hue Jackson said, "and we're going to have to make some tough decisions going forward, but that's a good problem to have." 

2. How much will the starters play?

Following a win over the Buccaneers in the dress rehearsal game, it's unclear how much — or if — the Browns' starters will play Thursday night in Chicago.

Jackson made as much clear throughout the week, adding he hasn't set a rotation at quarterback or decided whether rookie starter DeShone Kizer will suit up. "I haven't made that decision yet. I know that I still want to see our guys keep playing," he said. "I think that is important to further evaluate them with critical reps, but I haven't made a decision on where I'm going to play DeShone and if DeShone is playing."

3. Who steps up in the secondary?

For the first time since 2010, the Browns will play a game without Joe Haden on the team's roster. With the release of the veteran Wednesday, they'll count on Jamar Taylor, Jason McCourty and Briean Boddy-Calhoun to step up at cornerback. While all three have looked solid since camp opened, Cleveland should get a better idea Thursday of its overall depth at the position.

Among those competing for roster spots and playing time are Marcus Burley, Darius Hillary, Trey Caldwell, Channing Stribling and Najee Murray. In three preseason games, the Browns defense has shined, totaling seven takeaways and 12 sacks while allowing an average of 9.6 points per game.

4.  Kicker competition

In what's been an ongoing competition since OTAs, the Browns will inevitably have to pick between the veteran Parkey and Gonzalez, the former Lou Groza Award winner whom they drafted in the seventh round this spring. Both kickers, special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said earlier this month, are worthy of kicking in the NFL.

"Both guys have been really good. That's what we're building here. This culture is being built on competition at every position. I say that whether it's at the quarterback position, left tackle, or defensive end, kicker, it makes no difference," he said. "If there is competition, you are going to get better and you are going to get more game ready a little bit quicker. Those things are taking place right now."

The pair are 3-for-4 on field goals through the preseason.

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