Five things to watch in the Bears’ preseason finale against the Bills

JJ STANKEVITZ
NBC Sports Chicago
<p>The Bears will wrap up a long, grueling six-week preseason Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills, with a few important things worth watching for at Soldier Field. </p>

Five things to watch in the Bears’ preseason finale against the Bills

The Bears will wrap up a long, grueling six-week preseason Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills, with a few important things worth watching for at Soldier Field.

When the Bears take the field for Thursday night's preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field, 41 days will have elapsed from their first practice of training camp. The grueling, nearly six-week preseason finally will come to a close when the clock hits zero Thursday night, and then cut-down day looms on Saturday. 

The thought here is most of the Bears' roster decisions have already been made, partly due to the two's and three's playing the entire game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday. But there still are a few things worth watching Thursday evening as the Bears roll toward preparing for the regular season:

1. Who's in and who's out?

Of the 49 players who played in last year's preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns, 30 were terminated, waived or were placed on the reserve/injured list and eventually reached an injury settlement. Three others - running back Jeremy Langford, tight end Ben Braunecker and long snapper Jeff Overbaugh - made the initial 53-man roster only to be waived a day later following a trio of waiver claims were brought in. 

The point being: The majority of the guys who play on Thursday will be cut. Some of them will never get another chance to make a team. And while the Bears probably have a good idea of who will and won't make their 53-man roster, there's an opportunity for plenty of these other guys to put something on tape that could get them noticed by one of the other 31 teams around the league. 

"For a lot of guys, this is going to be their last chance playing, so you don't know what's next," linebacker Sam Acho said. "And so you have no choice but to give it all you got, you have no choice but to go full throttle because you never know - there might be one play you make in the fourth, or for us the fifth, preseason game that puts you on our team or a different team. And so everybody's gotta go full speed."

2. One last look at an O-line competition?

Coach Matt Nagy said this week the Bears haven't settled on who their starting left guard will be, between veteran Eric Kush and rookie James Daniels

Kush could play on Thursday, but the Bears probably need to see more from Daniels if the 20-year-old is going to wind up as a Week 1 starter. Where Daniels plays will be interesting - he split halves between center and left guard in last week's game against the Chiefs, and most of those reps at center came against Kansas City's first-team defense. 

The Bears could opt to play Daniels solely at left guard on Thursday if they're not considering moving Cody Whitehair to guard to make a place for Daniels in the starting lineup, at least for Week 1. Playing Daniels at guard would also give center Hroniss Grasu a showcase of sorts, possibly for the Bears to trade him before cut-down day. 

Either way, the bet here is Kush is your Week 1 starter, but expect Daniels to force his way into the starting lineup at some point this season. 

3. Another look at Wims

Chances are, Javon Wims has put enough on tape this preseason to make the Bears' 53-man roster. His strong hands, big frame and improved route-running have generated an NFL-high 15 catches and 227 yards this preseason, and he ripped off a 54-yard gain against the Chiefs, too. 

Wims probably doesn't need to do anything to make the team, at least as it relates to his offensive production. What work he gets on special teams will be a good barometer of where he stands in the eyes of his coaches, too. 

"He was making some mistakes early on, which is natural for a rookie," Nagy said. "But he played a pretty good game, not just catching the ball but his assignments, he did a good job."

4. The cornerback battle

What the Bears do with their cornerbacks on cut-down day will be an interesting point to follow: Will they take only the five guys who look like roster locks (Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan, Cre'von LeBlanc, Sherrick McManis), or will they take those five plus a sixth (Marcus Cooper, Kevin Toliver II, Doran Grant, Michael Joseph), or will they make a waiver claim for a cornerback to get them to six on Sunday?

Either way, Thursday will be good opportunity for all those cornerbacks on the roster bubble to make one final positive impression on coaches and front office members. There hasn't been much separation from anyone in that group during training camp and preseason practices, though, making it possible the Bears address their cornerback depth via the waiver wire Saturday into Sunday. 

5. Last Chance, You

Back to the guys who will play for a moment - not only will Thursday's game be a showcase for 31 other teams, it will be an opportunity for players who will inevitably get cut on Saturday to leave one final lasting impression on this coaching staff. 

Meaning: Of the 29 players who were terminated or waived last year, eight wound up back on the active 53-man roster at some point during the 2017 season (DL John Jenkins, LB Jonathan Anderson, DL Rashaad Coward, WR Tanner Gentry, OL Brandon Greene, S DeAndre Houston-Carson, LB Isaiah Irving, LB John Timu). Some of the guys who get cut will wind up on the practice squad and will get signed to the active roster during the season. Others will become free agents and be brought back if the Bears need depth. 

So for some of the guys who get cut this weekend, it's not goodbye, it's see you later. 

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