by Carlos Nazario
As the Bears started training camp, there was one question that was on the minds more than any other: Did the Bears improve their offensive line?
Sure, they had questions about the wide receivers as well, but what good is it getting a receiver if quarterback Jay Cutler cannot get him the ball?
In the draft, the Bears picked up Gabe Carimi, a tackle from Wisconsin, and he has had a great camp. He earned a starting spot on the line as a right tackle. They also caused some controversy when they let longtime center Olin Kreutz leave over a difference of $500K in salary. Guard Roberto Garza moved over to center, where he played 10 years ago in college. J’Marcus Webb moved over to left tackle, and Chris Williams, who failed as a left tackle last season, is at left guard. At right guard is Lance Louis.
The Bears went with youth and size this year. Garza, at age 32, is the oldest on the line. All told, the starting linemen weigh a total of 1,599 pounds, bringing back memories of those enormous Dallas Cowboys lines from the ‘1990s.
You might think that having new guys in and having old guys switch may bring some trouble in continuity, and you would be right. In the first preseason game, the line gave up nine sacks to the Buffalo Bills.
“We had some guys that didn’t play well,” said offensive line coach Mike Tice. “Not to call anyone out. Everybody knows who those guys are. It was pretty evident. They’re young (and) they need to improve this week.”
All those practices and playing late into that first game have started to pay off, however. In the next two games, the line has only given up 2 sacks total and the running backs have had plenty of holes to run through. As they progress, the linemen are starting to hear more accolades than criticism. Cutler sure likes the new look line. After being sacked 52 times last season, he was certainly one who wanted to see a change on the line.
“Those guys are getting better and better with each game,” said Cutler. “You can just see their confidence building. Garza’s running a clean show out there.”
Bear fans are hoping to see their confidence turn into a full swag as they continue to gel. The football hopes of a team and its city lie on the broad shoulders of a heavy line.