The Bears were forced into yet another scramble to field serviceable bodies on the offensive line going into the Detroit game, more or less an on-going story line this season.
But for the season, the Bears improved up front under a coherent offensive philosophy with coordinator Adam Gase, finishing as the No. 11 rushing team and going from 24th to sixth in third-down conversions, a reflection of better consistency on early downs.
Hroniss Grasu (knee) was inactive with a knee injury, forcing Matt Slauson to move over from left guard. Prevailing thought is that Grasu, overpowered too often during his rookie season, is the long-term plan for the center position, needing to add weight and muscle this offseason to be more in synch with life in the NFL.
The future of Kyle Long appears to be decided at right tackle until something happens to make a move to left tackle a solution. Long struggled at times during his transition year after two Pro Bowl seasons at guard, but dealing with the mental stresses of the job on the flanks is where he has made palpable progress in the eyes of those who see the most of him.
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“I see him as one of the future great offensive linemen to come through this organization, whether he’s at right guard, right tackle, center – I don’t know where they’re going to put him,” said tackle Jermon Bushrod. “You know what he can do at guard. He’s grown at tackle. That’s what I’m very appreciative of the way he’s grown and handled himself and dealt with things. Some people deal with things in different ways. And I’ve learned from him. I’m very proud of the way he’s grown over the course of the season, being thrown into a situation he wasn’t used to.”
Slauson was an anchor at left guard when he wasn’t pressed into service at center following injuries to Grasu and Mike Montgomery. But the other guard position was in flux between Vladmir Ducasse and Patrick Omameh, and that position appears to be a priority for the offseason.
Charles Leno was a solution at left tackle, taking over the job when Bushrod suffered concussion and shoulder injuries at Seattle. Leno never relinquished the job.
“I love the fact that he never got frustrated by what happened earlier in the preseason,” said Gase. “I think he had a little bit of a rough start but he just kept working and then when he got the opportunity at left tackle, he took full advantage of it. He’s been so steady for us and he’s been a very good leader for that group as far as being the guy that’s always doing the right thing and making sure his side of the ball is taken care of. I know Jay feels very comfortable with him on that left side.”
Bears OL season grade: C-