In the final edition of a three-part series, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the Bears offensive line heading into training camp.
The Bears enjoyed a 2013 season with the same five offensive linemen starting all 16 games, contributing to reaching an 8-6 peak in the first Marc Trestman year before the defense allowed 87 points over the final two games to miss the playoffs.
Last season the Bears started the same five linemen for as many as three straight games only once. And four of those five (tackles Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills, center Brian de la Puente and guard Michael Ola) were not starting as the final minicamp concluded; de la Puente is no longer on the roster.
Meaning: Absolutely nothing beyond left guard Matt Slauson and presumably center Will Montgomery seemed settled during minicamp, and what the line looks like on Aug. 1 when the pads come on in Bourbonnais will be only temporarily resolved in the next few weeks.
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“I've told the players: You've got to start somewhere,” coach John Fox said. “It's not where you start the race, it's where you finish. I can't predict what's going to happen at camp. I know we will move people.”
Kyle Long’s movement has been amply documented and debated; right tackle, left tackle, right guard. Vladimir Ducasse was signed from the Minnesota Vikings and took all of the No. 1 snaps at right guard through minicamp. Charles Leno spent time at right and left tackle. Mills was out with an appendix problem. Bushrod did not practice in minicamp, although his pairing with Slauson has been a strength on a line without many, and Slauson was able to start just five games last season because of two different injuries.
Quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end are set for at least the beginning of camp, pending wideout Kevin White’s expected elevation to the No. 1 offense. But the offensive line has yet to practice together in what is a clear No. 1 unit and that cannot be the case by the time the Bears get into the preseason games at Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
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“Whether you’re zone blocking or man blocking, gap blocking, draw blocking, as long as you’re on the same page, it always should be coordinated,” said offensive line coach Dave Magazu. “Sometimes the defense dictates that you’re not going to look so smooth. If they’re moving around, they can get you out of synch a little bit. But there’s where ‘zone’ helps you a lot, because folks are coming to you. Sometimes that looks a little more smooth.”
And “smooth” only comes from working together as a unit.