With a quarterback that has been sacked 110 times in the last three seasons in Chicago, you wouldn’t point to the Bears offensive line as being its strongest suit. Despite not making any major additions to the offensive line during the offseason, the team feels good about the direction the offensive line is headed.
Here are some reasons why the offensive line is not as bad as you may think:
A change from a coordinator who relied on the five and seven-step drop in Mike Martz, to a coordinator who likes to run the ball and roll out his quarterback in Mike Tice, the offensive line will benefit greatly from a change in schemes. With Martz’s five and seven-step drops the offensive line was expected to maintain their blocks while allowing the receivers to extend their routes downfield. Martz’s stubborn ways often got the best of him as he did not like to concede the fact that his offense had quickly become outdated with faster and smarter defenses wearing down the offensive line.
Consistency at Center
The big concern during last year’s training camp was the team’s decision to let Olin Kreutz walk. Many were shocked that the organization was willing to let go of one of the best centers in the league for the past decade and turned to Roberto Garza to man the center position. Garza excelled in his first year at the position garnering a Pro Bowl alternate nod and is expected to play just as well this upcoming season.
Left Tackle Athleticism
Despite his struggles in the past, left tackle J’Marcus Webb has shown some positive flashes. Webb is extremely athletic for a guy of his size but needs to work on becoming a more aggressive blocker. The first couple days of camp had Webb and Chris Williams splitting time at the position, but Webb has come out Tuesday and Wednesday taking all of the 1st team snaps at left tackle. Both Webb and Williams have prior starting experience at the position and both would benefit greatly from the change in offensive schemes. Along with moving Williams back to his natural position of tackle, undrafted free agent James Brown has become a surprise candidate among the left tackles. Likely not a starter this year, Brown has the tools and athleticism that is desired at the position. Tice seems to love the guy and don’t be surprised if he becomes Tice’s new project.
Stability at Right Tackle
After getting injured in the second game of last season, right tackle Gabe Carimi is back and looks to be in great shape. Carimi looks to have shed some fat and has toned up in the offseason. Carimi never really got a chance to prove himself in his rookie year but he played a solid first game of the season against the Atlanta Falcons. Carimi has the talent and ability to stabilize the right side of the offensive line for years to come and there shouldn’t be anymore concern about his knee.
Strength Up the Middle
Likely the strongest spot on the whole offensive line is the guard position. In camp, the Bears currently have Chris Spencer tabbed as the left guard with Lance Louis in on the right side. Beyond Spencer and Louis there is Edwin Williams who started seven games last season as well as new addition Chilo Rachal, a former 2nd round pick of the San Francisco 49ers who has started 38 games over the last 4 seasons. Rachal could push Louis is camp but as of now, Louis seems to be holding his own well.
With Roberto Garza and Gabe Carimi seemingly the only two locks at their current position, the Bears are blessed with a group of lineman who can play multiple positions. Both Chris Spencer and Edwin Williams have prior experience at center, Chris Williams has started games at the left guard spot in the past and is currently working as the second team right tackle, and Lance Louis spent time at right tackle last season when Gabe Carimi went down.
Despite not being full of likely Pro Bowl caliber players the Bears offensive line will continue to be a work in progress, but because of the players’ flexibility as well an improved offensive game plan, don’t be surprised if the offensive line becomes one of the Bears’ biggest strengths.
Matt Eurich is a contributor to Bearsbacker.com. Follow Bears Backer on Facebook for up to the minute news about the Bears. Also, check out Matt’s work on Bleacherreport.com and follow him on Twitter @MattEurich.