Mike Tice was brought into the Chicago Bears in 2010 with a reputation for making offensive lines better. After seeing how bad the o-line was during his tenure in Chicago, I can only reach one of two conclusions. Either his reputation was bigger than his coaching ability, or he really did work some magic on the line, and he brought them up from hot, steaming garbage, to just plain garbage.
Regardless, the Bears have a new o-line guru in town, offensive coordinator / o-line coach Aaron Kromer. It will be his job to teach the new schemes to the big guys, and to get them all to realize their potential.
There are 15 offensive linemen currently in camp, battling it out for eight, maybe nine spots on the final 53 man roster. The Bears would also like to stash a player or two, or three, on the practice squad. With starters rarely getting big minutes in the preseason, the backups will be trying their best to get good tape out there for the other 31 teams.
The name of the game for the backs ups will be versatility. If you can't play more than one position on the o-line, you'll probably be out of a job.
The five guys that are currently lining up as the starters are obvious locks, Roberto Garza, Matt Slauson, James Brown, Jermon Bushrod, and J'Marcus Webb. Top draft pick Kyle Long has spent time with the ones, and he's a lock as well. If Long beats Brown out for the starting RG job, Brown has been working on the left side as well, so maybe he pushes Slauson for that job. Brown also has tackle experience, so his value should ensure him a spot on the final 53.
For those of you wishing Webb is cut, you need to let it go. Webb isn't a top flight tackle, and he may never be, but he has improved in his three years as a pro. That's just not me saying it, but the Bears beat writers, many national analysts, and even the "unbiased" football sabermetric sites are saying it.
You have to figure the Bears will bring Jonathan Scott along because he's a veteran tackle that can play both the left and right sides.
That's seven players right there, the rest of the linemen will need to give the Bears a reason to stick around.
A good bet to make it
Some how, some way, the Bears will have rookie Jordan Mills on the team in 2013. He probably projects to just a right tackle, but with Webb on his last year of his contract, the Bears need some 2014 insurance. I'm not sure if Phil Emery will be on board with a red shirt injured reserve stint like we've seen in the past, but the Bears were high on Mills after the draft, and I can't see them parting ways with him. If he underperforms leading up to roster cuts, he may be a safe candidate for the practice squad.
Even though projected starting left guard, Matt Slauson, has some center experience, you'd rather not have a primary back up also starting. If Garza were to go down, the Bears wouldn't want to alter two spots for one injury. This is why I think Edwin Williams has a good shot at a roster spot. He can play both center and guard, and he's experienced. I'm not the biggest E. Williams fan, but I can see his value to the team. It'll be up to one of the center projects to take his spot.
On the Bubble
The young bubble guys would love to find a home on a practice squad, whether in Chicago or another team. All they need to do is catch someones eye, either a Bears coach, or another teams scout, and they could get that call after being visited by the Turk.
Eben Britton is a former 2nd round draft pick that can play guard and tackle, the problem with him is he hasn't played either spot particularly well. If he surprises in camp, he could push Scott for a spot, but as of now, he's behind Scott on the depth chart. He's also not practice squad eligible, so he's really pushing hard to impress someone.
Centers Taylor Boggs and P.J. Lonergan both have their fair share of WCG fans, but both are long shots to be retained. Boggs has some injury issues that he worked through, and Lonergan is an undrafted rookie.
Derek Dennis and A.J. Lindeman both have the generic "OL" listed as their position on the Bears website, but I don't think either is a center. Dennis is a G/T, while Lindeman is more a T/G, and neither is a good bet to stick around once cuts happen.
Cory Brandon has played both tackle spots, but he may get caught up in a numbers game. He spent time last year on the Bears practice squad, and he even had a brief stint on the active roster late last season. He has an uphill battle to make the team.
Who do you see making the 53 man roster for the Chicago Bears?