As we count down the final days to the start of Chicago Bears training camp, we’re doing a preview of all of the position groups. We’ll look at our projected starters, key backups, training camp battles as we review the additions and subtractions to the Bears roster over the offseason.
TODAY’S POSITION: OFFENSIVE LINE
What a turnaround for the Chicago Bears offensive line. In the first year under Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer, the offensive line went from a weakness in 2012 to a strength in 2013. The group was almost completely overhauled in 2013, with only center Roberto Garza holding over from 2012. Veterans Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson took the tackle and guard jobs to the left of Garza while rookies Jordan Mills and first round draft pick Kyle Long manned the right side of the line.
In a combination of the overhauled talent and Trestman’s scheme, the line play allowed the Bears offense to become the second ranked scoring offense in 2013. The objective for 2014 is simple: keep improving.The entire starting group from 2013 will be back in 2014. That continuity and another year in the same system should allow this group to continue to improve.
Roberto Garza will be back for his 14th season, so a succession plan needs to come into focus. Taylor Boggs spent the season behind Garza, but didn’t get any game action. The Bears also brought in former Saints center Brian de la Puente as a free agent with whom Aaron Kromer has a familiarity. The fifth year veteran could challenge Garza or certainly serve as a valuable backup in the middle of the Bears line.
The Bears were impressed enough in guard Matt Slauson to sign him to a long term deal at the start of the offseason. He graded out as the top Bears offensive lineman even though rookie Kyle Long got the free trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. Long was a pleasant Phil Emery draft day surprise, showing the type of athleticism and nasty streak to make a great guard. He could be headed to a tackle position down the road, but for 2014, Long will look to continue to build on an impressive Pro Bowl rookie season. Undrafted free agent Ryan Groy will look to make an impression in camp and could be a practice squad candidate.