Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts: 5 Things to Watch for

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Dec 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears tackle Charles Leno (72) against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. The Lions defeated the Bears 20-14. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Could Charles Leno help the line situation settle?

In 2013 the Chicago Bears looked like they were on the road to solving their offensive line woes. They’d signed a pair of solid veterans in left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson. Center Roberto Garza was still around to lead the pack. And they’d drafted a pair of rookies in right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills, both of whom were scheduled to start that season.

The line was solid that season; not great, but certainly a vast improvement over the prior three years, cutting down on sacks and bolstering the running game. Even though Bushrod and Garza were pushing on in years, it seemed the Bears had solved that problem.

Then came the 2014 relapse. Bushrod became a larger turnstile. Slauson was injured, and Mills failed to improve in the passing game. Only Long, really, remained a constant.

Nov 9, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Chicago Bears offensive tackle Charles Leno (72) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 55-14. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

This season, the Bears are looking at a slightly revamped line. Bushrod and Slauson are still on the left side, while veteran Will Montgomery was brought in and veteran Brian De La Puente departing, while the Bears drafted center Hroniss Grasu. Long was still at right guard, but there was an audible clamor for him to move out to right tackle, where Mills still had a shaky hold on the starting job.

Not any more. News broke this week that Charles Leno, a seventh-round 2014 draft pick out of Boise State who played some tackle for the Bears in his rookie season, spent time Thursday practicing with the starters as right tackle after Mills suffered a calf injury. Mills’ status for the game Saturday was unclear as of this writing.

The Colts don’t have an overwhelming defense, so this is a solid point for Leno to begin to make his mark with the starting offensive line, if he does in fact get the nod over Mills. I didn’t see enough of him in 2014 to really have too much of an opinion, but I like that he, along with fellow candidate Michael Ola, picked up significant playing time in 2014 as the Bears battled injuries along the offensive line. Leno isn’t some second-year guy whose first year was spent fetching water for the starters. He saw action, plenty of it. It’s up to him to parlay that now into a starting role.

But what I’m more interested in is whether Leno can bring some stability to the line. Can he play well enough to quell the calls for Long to move outside? If Leno can, and I’m optimistic, that allows the Bears to drop the idea of moving Long and keep him at a position where he’s already a proven Pro Bowler.

They’ll still have Mills, a solid run blocker and poor pass blocker, in reserve if necessary, but Leno could bring stability to the right side of the line, and give the Bears a pair of solid starters on that side of the line for the foreseeable future.

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