Inside Look: The Chicago Bears Offensive Line

Inside Look: The Chicago Bears Offensive Line
Kyle Long #75 of the Chicago Bears pounds on the wall during player introductions befotre a game against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 28, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A year after ranking fourth in sacks allowed with 30 in 2013, injuries took a toll on the Bears’ offensive line as they finished 19th  in that same category with 41.

Four of the five starters from the last two seasons are back on the line. The lone spot has been taken by veteran center Will Montgomery who replaced 10-year Bear Roberto Garza in the middle.

Behind the starting five, the Bears have some solid depth with second-year lineman Michael Ola starting 12 games in 2014 at various positions. Last year’s seventh round pick tackle Charles Leno, journeyman guard Vladimir Ducasse and third round pick Hronnis Grasu are the main backups along with Ola.

Dave Magazu is the new Bears offensive line coach. He has been an offensive line coach for eight of his 12 seasons in the NFL, with Denver from 2011-14 and in Carolina previously.

Here’s an Inside Look at the current Bears offensive line in the fifth installment of this series. You can read the previous story about the defensive line.

Projected starters: LT Jermon Bushrod, LG Matt Slauson, C Will Montgomery, RG Kyle Long, RT Jordan Mills

-Nine-year pro Jermon Bushrod has made 30 starts in two seasons with the Bears. He has been very solid as quarterback Jay Cutler’s blindside blocker. Last season, he missed two games due to knee and ankle injuries that he suffered in practice. All five of the Bears starting offensive line missed a game at some point in 2014. Bushrod didn’t take part in the mandatory minicamp this week, but is expected to be back for the start of training camp in Bourbonnais on July 29. He is the most important Bears offensive lineman this season. Expect a bounce back year from Bushrod.

-Slauson missed the first three games of the season with a high ankle sprain and then in Week 8 he suffered a torn pectoral that ended his season early. He finished with only five starts after making 16 in 2013 at left guard. He is back already with the team and is expected to be a leader with Garza officially out of town. He is a solid run blocker and a key piece for the Bears power run scheme under offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

-Entering his 10th NFL season, the 32-year-old Montgomery joins the Bears after making 71 starts for five different franchises including in Denver with head coach John Fox last year. He has familiarity with Fox’s coaching philosophy and Gase’s scheme which will give him the chance to start right away. He made eight starts for the Broncos last season. Montgomery is an upgrade over the aging Garza and should be a nice influence for rookie Hronnis Grasu.

-Long has been all over the place this off-season with Bushrod and Mills getting back to 100 percent. He has lined up at right tackle, right guard and left tackle during OTA’s and mandatory minicamp. Moving lineman around at this time of the year is certainly not a bad idea by Fox especially with what we saw in times of trouble in 2014. Long is the best pure athlete on the offensive line and in time he could be moved to either tackle spots. For now he should be the right guard when camp opens.

-Mills made 13 starts last season missing three due to a foot injury. He didn’t look himself and at times was a problem for the Bears up front. He is recovering from an appendix issue and is expected to be be back in the mix by the time training camp starts. Mills has to play better this season or he could be out of a starting job rather soon. The Bears have options and they will put out the best five guys no matter what it takes.

In the mix: Michael Ola, Hronnis Grasu, Charles Leno, Vladimir Ducasse, Ryan Groy, Jason Weaver, Conor Boffeli, Tayo Fabuluje, Cameron Jefferson, Chad Hamilton

-Ola was a utility backup offensive lineman in training camp in his first NFL season coming over from the CFL. He appeared in 14 games with 12 starts (six at left guard, three at right tackle, two at left tackle, one at right guard). He is the top backup lineman for the Bears and he should only get better in his second year in the league.

-Grasu was a third round pick this year and has plenty of experience as a leader coming from Oregon. He started all 52 games he played for the Ducks, including 12 alongside his friend Long in 2012. In time, Grasu should take over that center spot and could be the next Olin Kreutz in Chicago. That would be a great thing.

-Leno could have a larger role as a main backup this season after appearing in only six games as a rookie in 2014. The Boise State product has gained valuable reps during OTA’s and minicamp. He should be active more often than not in 2015.

-Between Ducasse and Groy they made nine starts last season. Ducasse made six in Minnesota, while Groy, an undrafted rookie from Wisconsin made three for the Bears. Both players could be competing for one spot with Ducasse having more versatility and experience with 11 career starts in 63 games.

-Weaver is in his third season after spending time in Cincinnati, Miami and New Orleans on their practice squads. Boffeli enters his second year after being on Minnesota’s practice squad in 2014. Fabuluje is a high upside player as this year’s sixth round pick out of TCU. He will likely spend this season on the practice squad where he will be developed in the hopes of a role in the near future. Jefferson and Hamilton are undrafted rookies. Hamilton and Fabuluje are the biggest linemen on the roster at 6-foot-6 tied with starter Kyle Long.

Final Thoughts

The Bears are expected to sign another player rather soon as their roster currently sits at 89 players. They signed two players on Thursday and released three opening up a spot.

That addition could come to the offensive or defensive line where competition is important all around.

If the starting five can stay healthy all season long, the Bears’ offense will be much improved especially in the running game. They have a mixture of very talented players with some interesting role players and youngsters on the bench.

The offensive line should be a big strength this season.

Next up: Tight ends

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