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Where the Game is Won: In theTrenches

Today on, there is a multimedia video entitled Camp Breakdown. It’s a very nice look into the training camp battles between the offensive and defensive lines.

The Bears are loaded with talent. From the All Pro linebackers to the Dynamic Duo at running back, the Bears roster boasts many household names. However, without both the offensive and defensive lines playing above average, this Bears team could be more glitter than gold.

If nothing else, the two line units must be getting better on a daily basis thanks to the high level of completion in practice.

Yes, defensive end Julius Peppers is a five time Pro Bowler, but his battles against a much younger, soon to be Pro Bowler, left tackle Chris Williams has to add some improvement to Peppers’ skills. Ok, maybe not, Peppers is a beast, there’s not much he hasn’t seen and concurred in this league.

But let’s flip it around. Williams is in his first full season entrenched as the team’s starting left tackle. In a division that has Jared ‘Red Neck’ Allen and Kyle Vanden Bosch, the experience that Williams is absorbing every day by going up against a premier pass rusher is invaluable.

With the left side of both lines locked down, the right sides of each line may be even more important. Not that the players on the right are better, but if both the right offensive tackle and right defensive end fully compliment their left sided counterparts, this could be a very special team to watch.

Frank Omiyale is back to his natural tackle position after struggling last season at guard. In the early days of this year’s camp, he is continuing to struggle, what’s worse, it’s at a different position! If he does not pick up his game and get the snap count correct, the nasty veteran Kevin Shaffer would be more than happy to knock heads on game day.

On the right side of the defensive line is tentative starter Mark Anderson. A stand out rookie season of ’06 is all but a dream now. With rookie Corey Wootton already getting reps with the starting unit and coachs’ favorite Isreal Idonije always having the potential to start, Anderson better re-live ’06 real quick, or he will soon be on the outside looking in.

With the left side looking much stronger, as it should, I’m sure Peppers and Williams can lend their expertise to their right bookend buddies.

The guys in the middle of the trenches have a very heated stand off as well.

The Bears are hoping that either Johan Asiata or Lance Louis will distinguish himself as the starting guard opposite of veteran Roberto Garza. Currently, Louis sits atop the depth chart. The training camp battles between these young guards and former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris seem to be getting both the young guys and Harris ready for the season.

If Harris plays to his stellar level of a few years ago, this Bears defense could make the Monsters of the Midway moniker their very own. But, to many, this is a big ‘IF’. Harris has been plagued by injuries since ’06 and has shown lapses in mind and body control. With two hungry young guards fighting for a starting position, Harris cannot take any plays off during practice. His motor must be going all day in the summer heat to keep up with the high level of play. This should transfer to game play as well.

The competition between the offensive and defensive lines is just the beginning. With some starting line up positions still up for grabs on both sides of the ball, the competion between position mates may be even higher.
Offensive line coach Mike Tice has stated that only two positions along the offensive line are set: six time Pro Bowler Olin Kreutz at center and (I’ll say it again) soon to be Pro Bowler Chris Williams at the all important left tackle spot.

With three positions up for grabs, each of the guys fighting for not only a starting spot but the even more important, roster spot, better bring it every time they crouch down in their stance. Whether that be hitting the sled, hitting the weights, or hitting each other.

The same can be said for the defensive linemen. It seems that only Peppers and Harris have starting jobs locked down. Anthony Adams is a favorite of mine and should clog up the middle all season long. However, the Bears refuse to give up on Marcus Harrison, even though he has yet to live up to his potential. Matt Toeania’s name has been mentioned a few times in camp reports, he is said to be cut from the same cloth as Idonije. 

Having too many good players at the same position is a problem coaches love to have. And those coaches are the next reason as to why the lines’ camp battles are a great lead up to the season.

O-line coach Tice and defensive coordinator/"best d-line coach ever" Rod Marinelli have a lot to prove this season. With their butts on the line, as well as friend/ head coach Lovie Smith’s, you can be sure that these teachers of football make sure their guys don’t fail.