This group of players holds the key to the Bears playoff chances in 2011. If they simply can become an average group, the Bears should return to the postseason. I should amend that last sentence, because I think they're at least average as run blockers, but they need to step up their play in pass protection and go from garbage to average. It's not as big a leap as some may think. Play calling by Mike Martz, some scheme changes, and tightening up on individuals technique would go a long way to get them to average.
New center Chris Spencer wasn't brought in to ride the pine. He'll start with Roberto Garza going back to right guard, and Lance Louis will back up both guard spots. Louis has shown some good stuff, but I think he's a year away from being a full time starter. Remember he was a tight end in college, then moved to guard, then to tackle. He was a very raw player coming out of San Diego State, but I think he'll be a solid contributor eventually. And if Louis plays himself into the lineup this preseason, and Tice feels he's one of the best 5 then that's a good thing. Spencer will provide good depth.
Chris Williams, who is having a good camp according to reports, has left guard locked up... I'm not sure how I feel about that one. Left tackle will be J'Marcus Webb, who needs an intensity transfusion, and rookie Gabe Carimi will start on the right side. I understand why Bears o-line coach Mike Tice is so adamant about Carimi being a right tackle, his skill set and temperament scream RT, but if he's a better option on the left side, I think he should be given the opportunity. Thus far, Carimi is playing like a 1st round pick should. I've been impressed by his play through 2 preseason games.
I'm not down on Webb as some are. His mistakes are poor technique and effort. He's capable of playing better, he just has to realize that NFL intensity is required in the preseason opener as well as the regular season. Yesterday's Den saw a great article by Matt Bowen about Webb's technique issues, in my opinion it's a must read, so here's the link again. Webb looked like he put the last week of practice to good use. He was better against the Giants last night. He's getting there.
Frank Omiyale is a sure bet to make the roster, as either a swing tackle or the starting LT if Webb fails. His ability to fill in at guard makes him a valuable reserve. Edwin Williams is another key backup, as he can fill in across all three interior positions.
Levi Horn has turned some heads in camp playing tackle and looks to make the final roster. The other tackle in camp is rookie Josh Davis, who looks like a practice squad candidate. Another solid practice squad hopeful is rookie center Alex Linnenkohl, who scouts say is great technically, but is a year away physically. If a team claims him if the Bears cut him, that team will have to keep him on the active roster. I don't think a team would want to keep him on their final 53, as he's just not ready. The Bears could slip him through waivers and bring him back to the practice squad.
J.C. Brignone is also in camp to play the interior of the line, and will get a look at the p.s. because he's versatile. Johan Asiata is in camp again and may be on his last chance to make the Bears. He's an aggressive player with a mean streak, but after kicking around for a couple years this could be a make or break camp. Ricky Henry is another big bodied guard (6'4" 310) that is looking to make an impression.
If you're wondering where the great Herman "House" Johnson is, he was just cut by the Giants after being released by the Bears a few weeks ago.