Before we get started on Chicago's guards, I wanted to remind you that I grouped Ryan Groy in with the centers, because he was the back up center last year for the final 5 games of the season.
And in regards to Michael Ola, I'll touch on him with the tackles. Even though Ola had a couple good games filling in at guard, the Bears signed him as a tackle, they still list him as a tackle, and I think his best pro position is tackle.
Kyle Long - signed through 2016 - Two professional seasons for Kyle Long, two straight Pro Bowls. Not bad for a player that most fans called a reach when he was drafted. It could be argued name recognition helped him make his first trip to the Pro Bowl, but he followed up his rookie season with an even better one. Pro Football Focus had him at a +12.1 for the season and both PFF and myself had Long down for allowing zero sacks on the season.
Now in his 3rd year, I think Long is primed to become an Olin Kreutz type leader in Chicago's locker room.
Matt Slauson - signed through 2017 - Slauson was probably the best Bears offensive lineman in 2013, but he just couldn't shake the injury bug in 2014. He was put on injured reserve after week eight, but he also missed weeks 2-4. If Slauson can have a successful rehab from his torn pectoral muscle, he'll help stabilize the Bears offensive line.
Eben Britton - free agent - Britton spent some time the last two years playing as a 6th offensive lineman in Marc Trestman's offense. New offensive coordinator Adam Gase has been known to utilize a 6th guy on his o-line, so Briton may provide some value to the Bears.
Britton can also play tackle so his versatility may get him another one year deal. The new regime will have to go over all the game tape and determine if Britton adds more value to the team than one of the younger (i.e. cheaper) offensive linemen.
Conor Boffeli - signed through 2016 - All of Boffeli's in game action at Iowa was spent at guard, but he did practice at center in college. The 6'4", 304 pounder impressed enough on Chicago's practice squad that the team gave him a reserve/futures contract. Iowa runs a zone blocking scheme, so he's well schooled in that.
For more on Conor Boffeli, check out this article from our sister site, Black Heart Gold Pants.
2015 OUTLOOK - Slauson's health and Britton's return could determine if the Bears look to add another interior lineman to play guard. Re-signing Brian de la Puente is another option to add to the interior mix.
Then again, with Long, Slauson, Groy, Ola and Boffeli all under contract, new GM Ryan pace may feel he has enough depth. I'm sure there will be a few undrafted guys brought in, probably at least one G/T type player and one G/C type player.
There was some talk last season under Marc Trestman's watch, that the Bears could shift right tackle Jordan Mills inside to guard. And there's always the possibility that new o-line coach Dave Magazu may envision Kyle Long kicking outside to tackle.
My two cents on the Long to tackle thing; I say keep him at guard. I have no doubt that Long is athletic enough to play tackle, but the technique needed to play tackle is much different than the technique needed to play guard. He's a 2 time pro bowler inside at guard, so why take a risk by moving him outside.
I suppose if he struggles they could always move him back to guard, but how long until that determination is made and at what cost? Do they give him the entire preseason to figure it out, an entire year, eight games? Will they allow him to fight through a few mistakes, or panic and shuffle their offensive line at the first sign of trouble?
Things happen 'right-now' at guard, a lot of the thinking is taken out of the equation. A tackle's kick step is at a different depth and he's often waiting to see what angle he has to cut off. Tackles are often left on an island, but guards have help to either side. I'm not saying guard is an easier position, because both require different skill sets, but there's a reason failed tackles are often moved inside to guard.
I say keep Long at right guard and find a right tackle that can grow into the position with him. If Jordan Mills is fully recovered from his foot issues and he has a fantastic off season, he may prove to be that guy.
What are your thoughts at the guard position for the Bears in 2015?