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Bears Need Improved OL Play to Reach Potential

| July 6th, 2016

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The Bears have plenty of weapons at the skill positions and a terrific quarterback, but their offense won’t take a big step if their offensive line isn’t better than it was a year ago.

On paper, the Bears line should be significantly better. They lost Matt Slauson, but Kyle Long moving back to guard, combined with Cody Whitehair or Ted Larsen have to be better than Vlad Ducasse and whoever else they played last year. At his worst Bobby Massie was as good as Long was at tackle last year and, over the last 10 games last year, he was actually pretty good. Charles Leno Jr. and Hroniss Grasu should be better with experience.

But outside of Long, who should be expected to return to his stellar form at guard, there’s the possibility it all goes the other way.

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Why I’ve Got Questions About the Bears Offensive Line

| May 6th, 2016

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Forget about Matt Slauson being thrown into the dumpster behind A&P well-before his expiration date. That’s old news and I’ve promised those in the Twitterverse I’ll refrain from using the words “Matt” and “Slauson” in succession any longer. To play offensive football the way John Fox wishes it to be played, the Bears don’t need a mediocre offensive line. They need a good offensive line to be a playoff team and a great line to be a championship contender. Right now? They have more questions than answers.

Question 1. Is Charles Leno going to get better?

Leno was fine in 2015. Not good. Fine. The organization believes he can be the answer at left tackle but by no means is he a certainty to even finish the season protecting Jay Cutler’s blindside. Many of Leno’s struggles in 2015 were masked by Cutler’s ability to make things happen under duress. But how long will Cutler stay on the field if he’s constantly under duress?

Question 2. Is Cody Whitehair as good as I think he is?

If he is, the Bears have a two contract starter at guard. But he’s a rookie. And rookies, regardless of my opinion, are crap shoots.

Question 3. Who is playing center?

Is it Hroniss Grasu? Does Manny “Being Manny” Ramirez win the job from him in camp? Neither is going to be challenging for an All Pro spot anytime soon.

Also, if Ramirez wins the center job, is Grasu valuable anywhere else along the line? Can he sub in at guard?

Question 4. Can the right side of the line stay healthy?

The Bears right guard and tackle are one of the team’s strengths, especially in the run game. But what happens if one of them misses substantial time? The Bears have little depth to cover Long and Massie. (Don’t mention Ted Larsen to me with a straight face.)

It might be the team’s most important unit. And right now it contains the most unknowns.

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Where Should Bears Fans Focus During These Final Four Games?

| December 7th, 2015

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There are four games remaining. And while the playoff dreams have faded there is still plenty for Bears fans to watch over this final month of games.

Chase for .500

An argument could be made there’s no difference between finishing 6-10 or 8-8, if the result means missing out on the postseason. But that argument won’t be made here.

8-8 is something. It’s a valuable season. It’s a foundation on which to build a successful program. John Fox can walk into the offseason program and say, “We won eight last year. All we have to do is win two more and we are in the tournament.” And with their schedule including the NFC East and AFC South, two more wins can be expected.

Also, winning three more games than a year ago is substantial improvement (as if that weren’t evident already). Three games are nearly 19% of an NFL season. Fans should embrace The Quest For .500.

Solidifying the Offensive Line

Three of the final four games are outside in the cold. What does that mean? It’s time to find out if the Bears have the kind of offensive line that can boss an opponent in the run game. They showed signs of doing just that against San Francisco.

Four of the five linemen are projected starters in 2016. Only right guard, currently occupied by Patrick Omameh, is possibly up for grabs. Will be interesting to see how they develop as a group down the stretch.

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Position-By-Position at the Bye: Offensive Line

| October 29th, 2014

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The following is part of a series of position-by-position breakdowns at the halftime point of the 2014 season.

Here is what we expected from the offensive line coming into the 2014 season: Bushrod, Slauson, Garza, Long, Mills. The sturdiness and dependability of these five men in 2013 was a key to the club’s offensive resurgence. Yes, Mills was a weaker link but Trestman and Kromer protected him brilliantly with a combination of actual tight ends and Even Britton lined up as a de facto tight end.

It is hard to judge this group on eight games of odd configurations. Bushrod missed time and was replaced by a player (Ola) with no business playing left tackle in the NFL. Slauson will have a lost season and is, in my opinion, the Bears best offensive lineman. Garza missed a ton and while the transition to de la Puente felt seamless, the Bears certainly missed his comfort and leadership along the line. Mills has continued to struggle but injury has not allowed the Bears to provide the protection of a year ago.

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