The Chicago Bears 2013 season is just days away from getting started with the annual pilgrimage to Bourbonnais for the start of training camp. There will be a lot of familiar faces, but there will also be some extreme changes. Some positions are undergoing an extreme makeover. In this 4-part series, we’ll look at the groups that will have the biggest change.
In the third of our four part series, we’ll focus on the group whose changes are expected to have the biggest impact on the team, the offensive line. Let’s call this one a wedding present from Phil Emery and the Bears to Jay Cutler and Kristin Cavallari. Jay Cutler has been sacked 148 times in 56 games over his four seasons with the Bears. Compare that to just 51 sacks over 37 games with Denver. Add to that grim stat a couple of concussions and Phil Emery was left with no choice but to do an Extreme Makeover on the offensive line.
There will be huge turnover on the offensive line. Only Roberto Garza is expected to start 2013 where he ended 2012. J’Marcus Webb will move from the left tackle spot compete for the starting right tackle job. Speaking of right tackles, former first rounder Gabe Carimi took the train out of town to Bustville, being traded to Tampa Bay for a 6th round draft pick. Lance Louis, coming off a torn ACL, and Chris Spencer, coming off a bad couple of seasons, were allowed to walk via free agency.
The biggest deal of the offseason was left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who signed the richest deal a Bears offensive lineman has ever signed. For this extreme makeover to work, Bushrod needs to become the bookend left tackle that they had hoped for when they drafted Chris Williams. If eBushrod and veteran Matt Slauson can fortify the left side of the line, there’s hope that the right side of the line can take shape.
Phil Emery invested the Bears’ first round selection on another offensive line prospect, guard for now Kyle Long. Having started just a handful of games at Oregon, Long is short on experience but long on athleticism. Long will compete with second year man James “Hot Tub” Brown for the starting right guard position. Down the road, Long appears to project as a tackle, so it could spell trouble for J’Marcus Webb’s long term prospects to stick with the team.
Webb is in the final year of his rookie deal and will need to have his best season as a pro in order to merit a new contract. He doesn’t have any backers on the new coaching staff like he had with Mike Tice in the past regime and an offseason run-in with the law on a pot charge doesn’t help his cause. Perhaps it’s the wake up call he needed to harness his athleticism and put the pieces together. With Carimi gone, he’ll be competing with Jonathan Scott for the starting right tackle spot, with the loser most likely headed for the swing tackle spot.
Projected Starters: Bushrod (LT), Slauson (LG), Garza (C), Long (RG), Webb (RT)
Rookie Watch: All eyes will be keenly trained on Kyle Long in camp. He had limited offseason work due to collegiate rules. Keep an eye out for Jordan Mills, who could be in the mix as a backup tackle. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer has a reputation turning middle and late round picks into Pro Bowlers, so he could be a diamond in the rough.
Bubble Watch: With Roberto Garza nearing the end of his career, underdrafted free agent PJ Lonergan and veterans Edwin Williams and Taylor Boggs could have some added value on the roster. Tackle Cory Brandon and free agent Eben Britton will try to carve out a role on the remade offensive line during camp and in the preseason games. Versatility and the ability to keep pace with Marc Trestman’s high-paced offense will be a key for these bubble boys.
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