The Chicago Bears offensive line once again had their struggles last year, especially in pass protection. As I mentioned before, Jay Cutler was sacked 38 times last season – the fifth most in the NFL. General Manager Phil Emery made the O-line a top priority this offseason. The team used its first round draft pick on Kyle Long, a former University of Oregon guard. Jordan Mills, a tackle out of Louisiana Tech, was also selected in the draft in the fifth round. Long is more likely to get early playing time than Mills, especially with the departure of Gabe Carimi, who was sent to Tampa Bay recently for a future sixth round pick.
Long is likely to take Carimi’s spot at right guard, whereas Matt Slauson, who was signed this offseason, will probably work at the left guard position. Slauson, a former New York Jet, will bring more experience to the offensive line. Along with the addition of Slauson, the Bears added former Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod. Bushrod brings great pass blocking skills to the left tackle position, which will be essential in protecting Cutler’s blindside. These veterans are big improvements from what Chicago had last year.
Center will be once again Roberto Garza’s spot. He has played well overall since stepping for Olin Kreutz. However, he is aging quickly – he’s now 34 years old. Garza will be tested this year, but with no other viable option, he is likely to hold onto the center spot.
Right tackle will be the trickiest position for the Bears in the 2013 season. J’Marcus Webb and Jonathan Scott seem to be the more likely options as they already have some NFL experience, but rookie Jordan Mills will also be in the discussion. Webb has certainly seen his ups and downs since being drafted in the seventh round in 2010. He is far from a fan favorite, but Webb still was manageable last year. His move to right tackle will also be less pressure, as he will not have to protect Cutler’s blindside anymore. Jonathan Scott struggled against some of the faster pass rushers last season after replacing Carimi at the right tackle position. Unless he gets considerably quicker, he is unlikely to land the starting spot in week one. As for Mills, he may see some time in case of an injury or serious struggles from Webb, but it is unlikely for the rookie to be the starter coming out of training camp.
Emery made sure the offensive line will be much stronger this year. On paper, it is. However, until we see them step on the field and consistently protect Cutler and open holes for Forte and other backs, who knows if it really will be an improvement or not.