Through eight weeks of the 2013 NFL season, the Chicago Bears offensive statistics are the best they've been since the days of Erik Kramer. The Bears are 10th in the league in yards per contest (367.7), 14th in rushing yards per game (112.9), 11th in passing yards per game (254.9) and second in points per outing (30.4).
Credit the work of coach Marc Trestman and coordinator Aaron Kromer for transforming the 28th ranked offense in 2012 to a Top 10 unit this season. Their ability to quickly assemble a cohesive, consistently productive group is the main reason the Bears are 4-3 and not 2-5.
The offensive line deserves some praise as well, particularly in pass protection, an area in which they've been outstanding. The group as a whole has allowed just 11 sacks in seven games, second fewest in the league. This has given Jay Cutler and Josh McCown, whose 65.3 combined completion percentage is eighth best in the NFL, the time they need to be efficient in the passing game.
Given the state of the defense, which is in shambles, the offense will have to carry the team going forward, putting even more pressure on the front five. So far, they've been up to the task, including a solid performance against the Washington Redskins last week.
Here are our BR Trench Report grades from Week 7:
|Week 7 vs. Redskins|
For the first time all season, rookie right guard Kyle Long stands alone with the weekly high score of +10, barely edging out the two veterans on the left side, Bushrod (+9) and Slauson (+8). Most impressive and promising about Long's performance was his +6 in run blocking. Coming into the game, he had a season total of -5 in the run game, grading in the negative the past three weeks. Yet against the Redskins, Long mauled and played a crucial role in both of Matt Forte's short touchdown runs. Long has been consistently solid in pass protection all year, grading between+4 and +7 in each of the first seven contests, so if he can build on this run blocking performance, he'll become an even bigger weapon.
Bushrod was again solid on the left edge and led the team in pass protection for the second week in a row. His +21 overall grade the past two weeks combined is tops on the club. Against the Redskins, he consistently buried opposing rushers face first into the turf whenever they tried to turn the corner. He also had some strong blocks in the run game and graded second only to Long when opening holes for Forte.
Slauson is by far the most consistent lineman on the team. His lowest overall rating this year was +7 and he was right on line last week, grading +8 overall. Slauson's awareness in pass protection is outstanding and his quickness gives him an edge in Kromer's zone-blocking scheme. He's the most unheralded player on Chicago's roster.
Now the bad news, starting with Roberto Garza, who has very little power at the pivot. He was pushed around on a number of occasions when run blocking, getting knocked on his butt more than once. Garza also lacks the foot speed to mirror defenders iin pass protection and lunges far too much. He started the season strong, grading +30 after the first two contests. Since then Garza is a +6 combined, grading 1, 0 and -1 respectively in the last three games.
Yet Garza isn't the weakest link on the offensive line. That honor goes to rookie right tackle Jordan Mills, who has graded 0 or worse in three of the past four contests. If you throw out his decent game against the New York Giants in Week 6, one of the worst defensive teams in the league, Mills has a -6 overall grade since Week 2, which is almost entirely due to his poor play in pass protection (-6). Against Washington, he continually gave up pressure on edge rushes, showing J'Marcus Webb-like lead feet in the process. The only reason Mills doesn't give up more sacks is because he plays on the right side, where Chicago's signal callers can see the rush and adjust accordingly. If he played on the blind side, the offense wouldn't be nearly as productive. The good news for Mills is that he performed much better in the fourth quarter against the Redskins, although is overall performance again left a lot to be desired.
Here are the secondary grades from Week 5:
|Overall||Run [Snaps]||Pass [Snaps]|
|Martellus Bennett||4||4 ||0 |
|Tony Fiammetta||1||1 ||0 |
|Matt Forte||3||0 ||3 |
|Eben Britton||4||3 ||1 |
In limited snaps this week (11), Britton did a much better job (+4) than in Week 6 (-2). Bennett had his best game (+4) since Week 2 and was very strong as a run blocker. In pass protection, Forte was outstanding, missing his assignment just once in 12 opportunities. By himself, Forte saved the team three sacks. Fiammetta graded in the positive for the second week in a row, demonstrating some improvement, although he's still wildly inconsistent and misses far too many blocks.
Slauson has led the team in every category the entire season and nothing changes after last week's solid performance. Bushrod retains his spot at No. 2. Long's outing propels him past Garza for third best on the team. Long's +37 pass protection grade is only six points behind Bushrod. Mills stagnates and again resides at the bottom of the list.
|Week 1 vs. Bengals|
|Week 2 vs. Vikings|
|Week 3 vs. Steelers|
|Week 4 vs. Lions|
|Week 5 vs. Saints|
|Week 6 vs. Giants|
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.