Coach John Fox likely will not formally reveal until just before game time whether left guard Matt Slauson will remain at guard in Kansas City against the Chiefs or rookie Hroniss Grasu will get a sudden start after being on the inactive list the first four games of his rookie season.
But based strictly on Fox’s assessment of Grasu’s readiness to start an NFL game, which was not exactly damning with faint praise, but close to it, Slauson will anchor the Bears’ offensive line next Sunday.
“Hmm,” Fox said, pausing. “I think [Grasu] is a very talented player. He’s a guy that’s familiar with our offense. I think everybody in our locker room, or in our football building, has confidence in him. At some point, we will get to find out.”
Which does not sound like next Sunday in Kansas City is “some point” just yet. The Chiefs’ 3-4 scheme has two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe’s 346 pounds frequently over opposing centers. Kansas City opened Sunday against Cincinnati with one other defensive lineman besides Poe plus their four linebackers.
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Slauson, who has consistently graded out as the No. 1 or 2 Bears offensive lineman in his two-plus Chicago seasons, just wants early clarity, which he presumably received on Monday.
“It's only important to me if I'm going to play center because obviously I want to be working in that spot all week,” said Slauson, who slid over to center four plays into the Bears’ 22-20 win Sunday over the Oakland Raiders after Will Montgomery suffered a broken left leg. “As far as guard reps, I think I have a pretty good grasp of how to play that spot. But if I'm going to be the center this week I'd like to know that soon.”
The situation bears some semblance of what the Bears went through at right guard/tackle, with Kyle Long able to play either and the decision coming down to whether Vladimir Ducasse was a better guard than Jordan Mills was a tackle. In this case, Patrick Omameh played well stepping in at left guard and rates an edge over Grasu at this point in their careers.
Fox was effusive in his praise of Slauson, who managed the line calls as well as blocking Oakland nose tackle Dan Williams and holding the 330-pounder to one tackle.
“I thought it was tremendous,” Fox said. “That early in the game, it’s a two-man switch. Typically in this league, you go in with seven linemen, and even Pat moving over to left guard and Matt going to center, it wasn’t all hunky-dory. But I thought they didn’t panic and just kept swinging the sword and did pretty good.”