Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
In 2013 the Chicago Bears starting offensive line made it through the whole season without any injuries, but this season they may have lost their third starter before the 5th game of the season. Word came out this morning that starting LT Jermon Bushrod injured his knee in practice Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday’s game with the Panthers. Bushrod didn’t even show up to practice on Thursday, which is a bad sign for his availability on Sunday. He was off to an excellent start this season, with a 5.5 grade from Pro Football Focus which is the 2nd highest on the team after Brian de la Puente’s 8.9. Bushrod has only given up 1 sack in 4 games (Jets) and 2 QB hits, while also providing solid run blocking (3.6).
Left tackle is arguably the most important position on the offensive line as it is responsible for protecting QB Jay Cutler’s blind side. If Bushrod is out on Sunday, it could leave the Bears dangerously short on O-line depth. Hopefully injured LG Matt Slausen (ankle) will return for Sunday’s game which would allow the Bears to slide rookie Michael Ola over to left tackle. Ola hasn’t gotten the attention that fellow rookie Kyle Fuller has, but Ola has played very well for the Bears so far. He was excellent against both Buffalo & GB (8.0 grade) and held his own against two of the best D-lines in football (NYJ, SF) . If Slausen is unable to suit up Sunday, Ola will likely stay at LG and veteran Eben Britton will take over at LT.
Britton was released by the Bears in final cuts this year, but mainly due to the fact that he was too injured to play, and he was re-signed after injuries to Slausen and Roberto Garza in week 1. Britton is healthy now and has been adequate in 34 snaps at RG over the last two games (1.1 grade). Luckily for the Bears, Panthers star RE Greg Hardy is still on the NFL’s exempt list due to domestic assault charges. The Panthers have replaced Hardy with a combination of 2nd-year DE Wes Horton and ex-Bears DE Mario Addison.
Horton is the starter and has struggled (-5.2 grade, 0 sacks), but Addison is the pass rush specialist who has been much better with 5 sacks already though 4 of those came in one game against the Lions. Addison should be extra hyped this week going against a Bears team that signed him as a priority UDFA back in 2011 but released him during the season after only appearing in two games (-3.9 grade).