BR Trench Report: Week 1

We grade every snap of the Chicago Bears offensive line from the regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills, which featured a first-time NFL player atop the rankings.

Welcome back to Year 2 of our BR Trench Report, where we analyze and grade every snap of the Chicago Bears offensive line. Using All-22 coaches film, we evaluated each Bears front five player for all 74 of the team’s offensive snaps in the regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills.

Players are given a grade of +1 for an effort that positively impacted the play, a -1 for an effort that negatively impacted the play and a 0 for plays in which they had little or no impact.

Here are the overall grades for Chicago’s offensive line in Week 1, with splits for run and pass plays.

Jermon Bushrod725
Matt Slauson312
Roberto Garza312
Kyle Long6-17
Jordan Mills303
Michael Ola826
Brian de le Puente202

As you can see, first-year NFL player Michael Ola, who played 53 snaps as an injury replacement for LG Matt Slauson (ankle), was the top-graded lineman in Week 1. Ola was stout in pass protection, although he did have a few gaffes against the blitz. He showed good balance and awareness, and was lethal as a lead blocker in front of running backs screens. He doesn’t bring a lot of pop off the line but Ola’s athletic style fit very well in Chicago’s zone-blocking scheme.

LT Jermon Bushrod and RG Kyle Long both had solid performances. Bushrod had the second highest grade of any lineman, finishing in the positive in both pass protection and the run game.

Long was the most-consistent pass blocker of the day but he was the only lineman to grade in the negative as a run blocker (-1). He had a few really bad missed blocks trying to clear holes for Matt Forte, an area in which he needs some work.

Slauson was having a solid game before the injury and graded the highest of any offensive lineman through his 21 saps. He’ll be missed if his injury, which is reportedly a high ankle sprain, lands him on the shelf. Luckily, it appears Ola can be a solid fill-in during the interim.

C Brian de la Puente, C Roberto Garza and RT Jordan Mills all graded in the positive, although at +3 or less, which equates to an average performance. Mills was the only offensive lineman to give up a sack, a play in which Bills DE Mario Williams tossed him like a rag doll.

It was a solid performance by Chicago's offensive line, especially considering the mid-game injuries to two starters. The seven Bears linemen who played in Week 1 allowed just one total sack to the Bills, who had the second most sacks in the league last season. RB Matt Fort averaged 4.8 yards per carry, so the run blocking, while inconsistent at times, was effective overall.

Here are the ancillary blocking grades:

Martellus Bennett-3-2-1
Matthew Mulligan422
Dante Rosario01-1
Matt Forte303
Brandon Marshall220
Santonio Holmes01-1

Martellus Bennett had a great game as a receiver, catching eight passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, but he had a rough outing as a blocker. In both the run game and in pass protection, Bennett graded in the negative, and it appeared his effort was lacking on a lot of those missed blocks.

Dante Rosario lined up as a fullback on one play and had a great block on the linebacker at the second level. Yet he was solely responsible for the second sack on Jay Cutler.

Matthew Mulligan had a very strong game, serving well as an edge blocker in both phases of the offense. Matt Forte also had a good outing, picking up three big blitzes in pass protection, two of which saved Jay Cutler from getting his head torn off.

Santonio Holmes had a nick crack block on a run play but he fell back to a 0 grade after he was caught blocking down field the entire play during Cutler's second interception.

We’ll continue our BR Trench Report each week of the 2014 Bears season, tallying yearly totals and comparing week-by-week results. Stay tuned later this week for our defensive Trench Report, grading Chicago’s defensive line in the home opener.

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth 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.

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