Moving ahead in my roster projection series, we take a look at the Chicago Bears’ entire offensive line and see where the players project to be ranked on the depth chart opening week.
Offensive lineman on the roster:
- Corey Brandon – Rookie
- James Brown – Rookie
- Gabe Carimi – Second-year player
- Roberto Garza – 13-year veteran
- A.J. Greene – Rookie
- Tyler Hendrickson – Rookie
- Ricky Henry – Second-year player
- Lance Louis – Four-year veteran
- Nick Piechel – Rookie
- Chilo Rachal – Five-year veteran
- Chris Spencer – Eight-year veteran
- J’Marcus Webb – Three-year veteran
- Chris Williams – Five-year veteran
- Edwin Williams – Three-year veteran
Projected starter at LT: Chris Williams
Until Webb proves he gets it mentally, I will continue to give Williams the edge in this position battle. The Bears can’t afford to have a blindside protector on the field who suffers mental lapses throughout the game, especially in a year when the team is in win-now mode.
Also, I believe Williams is ready to take the next step after playing LG for the last two seasons. His problem at LT the first go-around was his inability to stop pass rushers from driving him back. At LG, we saw him improve in that area, which should benefit him against the bull rush this year.
Projected starter at LG: Chris Spencer
Spencer played admirably at the RG position last season; specifically as a run blocker, where he opened up lanes for the RBs. He’s now making the transition from RG to LG, where he will be counted on to be more than just a serviceable pass protector.
He’s not a lock to start at LG, as veteran free agent acquisition Chilo Rachal will compete for both OG positions. The left side of the line should give the Bears a more veteran look and an opportunity to have a strong ground game on the weak-side of the field.
Projected starter at C: Roberto Garza
You can make the case that Garza was the Bears’ best lineman last year. He had games in which he struggled, but had an overall solid season at a new position. At 33 years-old, Garza should have at least one more year of solid football in him. What they will do at the position beyond this year remains to be seen, but for this year, the Bears have a reliable C they can count on.
Projected starter at RG: Lance Louis
The potential is there for Louis to be solid starter for years to come; he just needs consistency at one position instead of being shuffle in-and-out and around the line. Louis made strides last preseason, but an injury in the season opener knocked him out of the line-up. When he returned, he was unable to regain his starting spot from veteran Chris Spencer.
Louis is in a battle with Rachal for the starting RG spot, but I fully expect the more athletic Louis to win the starting job.
Projected starter at RT: Gabe Carimi
Carimi and Garza seem to be the only locks on the line. In the minimal time that Carimi played last season, he set himself apart from the rest of his OL mates. The signature game would have to be the preseason contest against the Giants where he successfully contained Justin Tuck for two quarters.
Tice has come out this off-season and praised Carimi, stating that he looks better technique-wise in his second year. Carimi has the potential to be a Pro Bowl caliber RT, but it is up to him to fulfill that potential and stay healthy.
Swing OT: J’Marcus Webb – The loser of the LT competition will ultimately be the swing tackle. I have Webb falling short in his starting LT battle with Chris Williams.
OG: Chilo Rachel – Rachal started at RG for the 49ers last season but was benched three games in. If Louis or Spencer falters, best believe Tice will pull the plug on either one for Rachal.
OG/C: Edwin Williams – Tice likes versatile linemen who can play multiple positions. Williams has the ability and experience to play all three interior line positions.
Overall analysis on the offensive line
This group’s strength last season was clearly run-blocking, and going into this year, we should expect no different. The return of Carimi helps solidify the RT spot, and gives the Bears an upgrade on the strong-side of the field and an improvement in pass protection.
At 33 years-old, Garza is a solid starter capable of giving the Bears one more year of solid play. For the rest of the line, there are question marks, specifically in pass protection.
The lasting image of Williams at LT was him being overwhelmed by Demarcus Ware a couple years ago. We are banking on his experience of playing inside at LG to translate over to LT.
Spencer is playing a new position at LG that stresses pass protection (not his strong suit), while Louis has been in-and-out the line-up for the past two seasons.
Webb should be better off in the swing tackle role, unless he proves he can be a viable starter at LT.
Chilo Rachal and Edwin Williams give the Bears veteran depth to fall back on if we see poor play from either Spencer or Louis.
Despite the fact the team has relieved themselves of Martz’s system, which put too much stress on the line from a pass blocking perspective, it is still a concern going into the season.
Current Standing: Average