The Chicago Bears‘ offensive line certainly hasn’t been steady the past couple of seasons.
The line also ranked 30th in the league when it came to runs up the middle. They averaged only 3.3 yards per rush up the middle.
They had success running to the left or right side, averaging 5.0 yards per rush.
Despite all the criticism against the unit, they weren’t as bad in 2011 as you may think. In Jay Cutler‘s final five games of the season, he was sacked only five times.
They were on pace to allow 37 sacks for the season, which isn’t fantastic, but is a big improvement over the 56 sacks allowed in 2010.
With Cutler out, the line struggled. J’Marcus Webb had problems with penalties and protection. Lance Louis was up and down. The season-ending injuries to Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi really plagued the offense.
The Bears allowed 49 sacks a year ago, but the unit did help pave the way for the running backs leading to over 2,000 yards rushing.
Here are the career stats for each offensive lineman on the Bears’ current roster.
Tackles: J’Marcus Webb (30 games, 28 starts), Chris Williams (47 games, 38 starts), Gabe Carimi (two games, two starts), Cory Brandon (n/a), James Brown (n/a), A.J. Greene (n/a), Tyler Hendrickson (n/a).
Projected starting line: LT J’Marcus Webb, LG Chris Spencer, C Roberto Garza, RG Lance Louis, RT Gabe Carimi.
Projected bench: T Chris Williams, G Edwin Williams.
Twelve-year veteran Roberto Garza anchors the offense at center for the second straight season. He did a solid job of taking over for longtime Bear Olin Kreutz.
Chris Spencer should man the left guard position, while Louis will fight off Edwin Williams and Chilo Rachal at the right guard position.
Gabe Carimi started two games a season ago as a rookie before being lost for the season with a knee injury. He is back and healthy, so he should be one of the better linemen on the team.
Offensive coordinator Mike Tice made it a point to give LT J’Marcus Webb competition this offseason. He moved Chris Williams from left guard back to the position the Bears drafted him at, left tackle.
The battle between Webb and Williams should go well into training camp. Don’t be surprised if Williams wins the battle. Tice just wants to get Webb inspired in his third season in the league.
Tim Holt was hired to coach the offensive line, so expect him and Tice to aim to improve consistency on the line.
Will they allow more or less than 49 sacks?
It’s too early to know, but one thing is for sure: The return of a healthy Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams will only help.
Expect the Bears to stash away T James Brown on the practice squad this season. He was ranked as the second highest undrafted rookie by ESPN’s Mel Kiper.
The 2012 season could come down to the success up front with the offensive line. If Jay Cutler is running for his life, the Bears could be in for a long year.
We’ll find out rather quickly if this line has what it takes to be good enough.
Next Up: Defensive Line