- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- With four days left until the Chicago Bears must be down to their final 53-man roster, Armando Allen and Lorenzo Booker have one final opportunity to stake their claim for the No. 3 running back spot when the team visits Cleveland on Thursday night in the preseason finale.
It became evident early in camp that Allen and Booker would present a strong challenge to incumbent third-string running back Kahlil Bell. The competition then took somewhat of an unexpected turn Thursday night when the Bears released Bell prior to the third preseason game in New York, but the organization would not have been OK parting with Bell unless it felt good about Allen and Booker.
The duo had almost identical numbers against the New York Giants (Allen had five carries for 11 yards and four receptions for 31 yards; Booker had five carries for 15 yards and four receptions for 30 yards), and Booker had a 42-yard kickoff return. Booker also had a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown earlier in the preseason against the Washington Redskins -- although it is fair to wonder how all those impressive returns will factor into the ultimate roster decision since the Bears already have a pair of talented returners in Devin Hester and Eric Weems.
The question now becomes who can be a better contributor, not just in the return game, but in the other phases of special teams. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Allen has shown a willingness to block during blitz pickup which should no doubt help his cause as the final cutdown day looms.
"I think it's a very important week for me," Allen said. "I just need to go out there and compete and do everything I can. At the end of the day you can only control what you can control, so that's just me staying focused and going out there and trying to be on the right page. (I'm) just trying to show up on special teams. Let them know I can be a special teams guy. Show them I can go out there and block bigger guys and just go out there and show a lot of effort and show them I know what to do with my assignments."