Bears Offensive Line Among League’s Best?

Bears Offensive Line Among League’s Best?

The great people over at Football Outsiders rated the Bears offensive line as the seventh best group. What impressed me the most in their numbers was the team’s success in “power” situations, meaning on third and fourth downs. Also, the line ranked second in not having the running back stopped for a loss.

Given those rankings, let’s take a look at the offensive line and how it moved through the season facing a new offensive system, new faces, position changes and injuries. With all that the offensive line faced in 2015, they deserve major kudos for their play. Their coaches deserve a ton of credit too.

There is an old theory, that a good offense starts with the line. Without good blocking, there is no running game. Without good pass protection, there will be no effective passing game. It sounds simplistic, but in football today, the focus shifted to the quarterback.  Even though the Bears offensive line made its mistakes, their play directly contributed to Jay Cutler having an outstanding season.

Going into the season, the Bears offensive line looked decent enough. There was solid experience with Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Will Montgomery, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills.  There was concern that Mills might be the weak link, but he was going to get another shot after suffering his foot injury.

Then the unthinkable happened, right before the Green Bay game. The Bears announced the release of Mills, stating that Long would be the new right tackle. It was a shock for Kyle, as he did not play any downs at right tackle in preseason games. It also opened up the issue of who would play right guard.

That answer was initially Vladimir Ducasse, a player that had not lived up to his potential with the Vikings and Jets.

It was a surprise to see Long put in this position with little preparation, but it was something the fan base clamored for since the Bears drafted him in 2012.  His play throughout the season was an interesting and rare opportunity to watch a player learn his position right before our eyes. All in all, Kyle rose to the occasion, showed his athletic talents and proved by seasons end he would be a capable right tackle.


As the season progressed, injuries changed the complexion of the offensive line and brought the future of the Bears offensive line to the forefront. First off, Bushrod suffered a concussion and was replaced by Charles Leno, a seventh round draft choice in 2014.

Then Will Montgomery, who followed John Fox from Denver, went down with a leg injury. He played well when healthy, anchoring the center of the line. Slauson kicked over to center and acquitted himself until the Bears activated rookie Hroniss Grasu.

Grasu was drafted in the fourth round in 2015 and was not expected to play. The expectation was that Grasu would spend the season in the weight room, bulking up to challenge Montgomery in 2016.

The one area of weakness was the play at right guard. Ducasse won the job but struggled in pass protection. Overall, his play was too inconsistent, and this should be an area that the Bears look at in free agency or the draft.

The other guard that played on both sides was Patrick Omameh. He came from Tampa Bay, where he started 16 games in 2014.  He covered left guard when Slauson shifted to center in relief of the injured Montgomery and Grasu. Omameh overall played well, and the Bears have a decision to make with both he and Ducasse heading into free agency.

I gave the line as a whole a B-minus grade. To some that might be a bit generous. They had two inexperienced tackles in Long and Leno, Slauson had to play two positions, and they lacked dependable play at right guard, and in spite of that, they played well against top level teams.

Yes, there were too many penalties and missed opportunities, which in my opinion received too much focus from the media. What I saw was the foundation for the future being laid out.  You can see Leno and Long at the tackles and Grasu at center for a long time to come. Eventually they will have to replace Slauson, and in the immediate future, they have to bring in competition at right guard.

Ryan Pace will likely draft a lineman and maybe sign another one in free agency to build depth and create competition.  The good news that the building blocks for a successful offensive line is already in place.

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