From any view, a tough task for Bears' OL

September, 9, 2010
Offensive line play is one of football's most difficult aspects to evaluate from the outside. A left tackle might appear to have given up a sack. But was it truly his fault? Was he beat? Or was he supposed to get help from the left guard or a running back or even a tight end who missed his assignment?

Rarely do we learn those answers in real time, and that's why I'm not piling on the Chicago Bears offensive line after what appeared -- from the outside -- to be a miserable preseason that, among other things, featured more sacks than any other NFL team.

I can only assume coach Lovie Smith knew more than we do when he recently said: "I don't think it's a given that our offensive line is going to play bad this year. Let's hold off on that. Let's get to this week and see where we are. I think you will be pleasantly surprised how our offensive line will play."

That said, I still think the Bears have an enormous challenge on their hands, and I'm more convinced than ever that offensive line coach Mike Tice is facing the most difficult job of any NFC North assistant. I'm not as concerned about preseason performance as I am about the steep learning curve this line is facing as a group.

When you take a step back and look at it, you see that only one of the Bears' five starters has significant and/or recent NFL experience playing the position he'll open this season at. Yes, Olin Kreutz has made 167 NFL starts at center. But otherwise, here is where the Bears' starters stand:
It's true that Williams played left tackle at Vanderbilt and Garza is an experienced professional. Still, it's a challenging situation when you can only count on one of your five linemen as a constant.

Tice told reporters this week that the Bears prioritized testing and evaluating over scheming during the preseason, indicating he will be able to help linemen with better protection calls once the games start counting. That could very well be true. But when you realize Tice is essentially juggling the NFL debut of three-plus offensive linemen, you understand the depth of his task this season.



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