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Bears starters to play 25-30 snaps in preseason finale

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

Coach Matt Eberflus revealed Tuesday that most Bears starters will play "up to the half" during Saturday night's preseason finale in Cleveland.

"We're trying to get them 25-30 plays in there," Eberflus said. "We always reserve judgment to pull them when we think it's necessary. But that's what we're trying to do with those guys. There will be selected players that have the experience that will be out before that. But that's our plan to do that for this game. So guys are excited about doing that and we're getting ready to do that."

The Bears coach confirmed that quarterback Justin Fields is among those expected to play 25-30 snaps against the Browns.

Eberflus has several reasons for playing his starters for most if not all of the first half.

"It's establishing your identity," he said, "establishing your style of play, the effort we give, the execution we give, situational football, third down, if we get a two-minute drive, how we operate in the gold zone, all of those things that come into play that are good football. We want a good operation, clean operation, and we want to be aggressive in our style and aggressive in our approach. That's what we'll be looking for."

Eberflus also hopes that the Bears will improve on third down after being held to a 25 percent success rate (4 of 16) last Thursday night in Seattle.

Most Bears starters played 18 snaps on offense and 16 on defense in the preseason opener against the Chiefs and nine on offense and 10 on defense versus the Seahawks.

Center Sam Mustipher is looking forward to the expanded workload Saturday night.

"That's awesome, any way to build continuity, get out there," he said. "Cleveland is a great environment to play in, too, so that will be cool for us to be able to work through some things, if we have to go to silent cadence or things like that. It's great to get out there, get live reps, especially against a really talented defense, for sure. That will be awesome, and any time you get to play football is awesome."

Eberflus said that linebacker Roquan Smith, who returned to practice last Monday after ending a "hold-in" that was part of a contract impasse, is expected to make his preseason debut Saturday night.

"He's ramping up," Eberflus said. "Now he's going to be going into the [team] periods, ramping up that way and getting ready to go."

It has yet to be determined whether running back David Montgomery will make his preseason debut after sitting out the first two games.

"We're going to see how he goes this week and then we'll go from there," Eberflus said. "We'll see where he is. If he's working and he feels good, then we'll reassess later in the week. But we feel good about where he is right now."

The Bears are spending the week preparing for Saturday's contest as if it were a regular-season game, working on first and second downs in Tuesday's practice, third downs Wednesday and red zone Thursday.

"The process for us really is getting wired in and getting focused," Eberflus said. "I told the players this morning about the ability to focus in on the game plan, motion adjustments, your individual play."

Mustipher feels that preparing during the week like it's the regular season is even more beneficial than actually playing in Saturday's preseason finale.

"For guys like me, [it's] understanding the timing, how we're going to do our installs throughout the week, the routine that I'm going to get into, what are some extra things that I am going to add into my routine throughout the week," Mustipher said. "And young guys can learn that now instead of practice in the morning, you're in the afternoon. So, getting here a little bit earlier, go through your install, go through whatever you have to study, extra body work, extra lifting, whatever you need to do, you've got to figure that out before you get into the season. I feel like that's a huge help."

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