CLEVELAND: With starting quarterback Brandon Weeden resting on the sideline Thursday night during the preseason finale, backups Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace entered the spotlight in the Browns’ 28-20 loss to the Chicago Bears.
One of them probably made his final appearance in a Browns uniform.
Incoming owner Jimmy Haslam III spent more than 20 minutes talking to Browns General Manager Tom Heckert on the sideline during pregame warm-ups. It’s a safe bet the team’s plans for cut day were a topic of conversation. NFL teams are required to trim their 75-man rosters to 53 players by 9 tonight, and several Browns players were fighting for a handful of undecided roster spots in the fourth and final exhibition game.
Of course, the quarterback situation is on everyone’s mind.
“I do know what I want to do,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “I’m just not telling you.”
Shurmur seems as if he wants to keep Thaddeus Lewis as a developmental third-string quarterback, and if that decision is made, there won’t be enough room for both McCoy, the incumbent starter who was replaced by Weeden, and Wallace.
During a news conference Sunday, Shurmur praised McCoy for improving in his second year in the West Coast offense and for handling the quarterback competition in a professional manner. Shurmur sounded as if he’s leaning toward making McCoy the No. 2 quarterback, though the possibility of trading him can’t be ruled out, either.
“I feel confident in myself and my ability and how much I’ve improved, and I also trust in my faith that God has a plan,” McCoy said. “And wherever that is, I know it will be the right place.”
If the Browns trade McCoy, 25, Wallace would obviously stick around. If they don’t, Wallace, 32, could be cut tonight.
“This isn’t my first rodeo,” Wallace said. “I felt like I’ve done all I’ve can. Whatever decision is made is made.
“Hopefully [I’ll] get the opportunity to come back with you guys and be here with this team because obviously we’re doing some good things, bringing a lot of young talent. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
McCoy started Thursday, along with most of the Browns’ backups. Wide receiver Greg Little, running back Montario Hardesty and fullback Owen Marecic were the only regulars from the first-team offense who started.
McCoy played the entire first quarter and turned in a dud of a performance in an otherwise stellar preseason. McCoy completed 2-of-5 passes for 16 yards with an interception and a passer rating of 9.2. He finished the preseason 20-of-29 for 250 yards and a touchdown with an interception and a rating of 92.6.
“I think all three quarterbacks played like backups tonight,” Shurmur said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
The Browns went three-and-out during their opening possession, and McCoy threw an interception on their next series. His pass intended for wide receiver Jordan Norwood, who ran a corner route, sailed too high, and Bears safety Jeremy Jones picked it off.
The next play, Bears quarterback Josh McCown, who started in place of Jay Cutler, connected with wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher for a 30-yard touchdown. Sanzenbacher beat the coverage of Browns rookie cornerback Trevin Wade during the play, which stood after a replay review. Robbie Gould missed a 35-yard field goal to end the Bears’ opening drive, but he made the extra-point kick to give the Bears a 7-0 lead with 7:49 left in the first quarter.
Wallace took control in the second quarter and completed 3-of-4 passes for 36 yards and a touchdown to finish with a rating of 141.7. His 2-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Rod Windsor in the back of the end zone helped trim the Browns’ halftime deficit to 14-7. Wallace finished the preseason 16-of-27 for 195 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and a rating of 90.8.
In another backfield battle, running back Brandon Jackson stood out. He finished with seven carries for 48 yards (6.9 average), and Hardesty had six carries for 24 yards (4.0 average).
Undrafted rookie running back Adonis Thomas and Lewis filled in during the second half. One of Lewis’ passes deflected off rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon, was intercepted by cornerback Greg McCoy and returned 15 yards for a touchdown with 4:56 left in the third quarter.
Shortly later, the Browns allowed their second blocked punt of the preseason. Patrick Trahan pushed Windsor into punter Reggie Hodges’ line of fire, the ball hit Windsor and Brittan Golden returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
Thomas broke off a 64-yard run in the fourth quarter and rushed for a 1-yard touchdown with 10:09 to go. Phil Dawson’s 42-yard field goal, his second successful attempt, trimmed the Bears’ lead to 28-20 with 4:58 left.
The Browns didn’t escape the preseason finale unscathed. Shurmur said Lewis suffered a sprained thumb, but Lewis said he’s fine. Linebackers James-Michael Johnson and Benjamin Jacobs left the game with injuries.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.