They've been one of the most criticized groups the last few seasons in Chicago, and for the Bears' offensive line, the chirping is about to get a whole lot louder. After digesting Chicago's 10-7 preseason win over the Buffalo Bills it seems clear the team's success in 2011 will come down to the consistency of the front five.
Even though conventional wisdom says don't look too deeply into the preseason, I can't help but cringe at some of the plays that some members of the offensive line put on tape last night.
Take for example Lance Louis, who started at right guard. Louis' mechanics completely broke down several times, the first resulting in a Bills defensive lineman bursting right into the backfield disrupting a 2nd and 8 play in the first quarter. His second error resulted in a Jay Cutler sack. Several drives later, Louis' blocking assignment bull rushed his way into the backfield, sacking Caleb Hanie.
J'Marcus Webb also had a rough night. He was beat badly off the edge by the Bills' Shawn Merriman on the team's first series. On the next drive, his blocking assignment came barging into the Bears' backfield and sacked Hanie for a 2-yard loss.
T Gabe Carimi
Rookie Gabe Carimi had his own struggles, as I constantly saw him allowing blocks to get to his outside shoulder, subsequently collapsing the pocket. But these are techniques Carimi can only improve on through constant play in the NFL. The more he goes up against players of NFL size and speed, the better he'll become.
The Roberto Garza as center experiment may be short lived if we keep seeing performances out of Louis like last night. Garza filled in at the center position following the departure of Olin Kreutz, with Louis slipping into Garza's old right guard position. Backup center Chris Spencer showed great ability with the second-string offense, helping create most of the holes that RB Kahlil Bell used for his 73-yard rushing night. My guess is Garza may move back over to right guard while Spencer joins the first-team squad at center.
Through all the bad we saw last night, there was some good. Yes, the offensive line allowed nine sacks, and yes the group was only able to throw for 142 yards, but there were moments when the run game went off without a hitch.
Marion Barber consistently found holes and hit them hard. Bell achieved his 73 rushing yards and 46 receiving yards primarily by following outstanding blocking out of screen passes.
There is a lot of work to be done after last night's victory for Chicago's offensive line. Several offensive linemen such as Louis and Webb will have to step up their game to make any sort of impact this season.
There still is plenty of time to work out the kinks before Chicago opens up the season against the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field on Sept.11. It's safe to say though, practice is going to be rough for the front five the next few weeks.
Marco Scola is a regular contributor to Bear Report and BearReport.com. He is also a radio personality in the Chicago area.