With Britton, Bears O-line won’t skip a beat

Re-signing Eben Britton gives the Chicago Bears depth and experience along a banged-up offensive line that could be without two starters against the San Francisco 49ers.

It was reported by the Chicago Tribune this week that Chicago Bears center Roberto Garza and guard Matt Slauson both have high ankle sprains suffered in the regular-season opener. If the report is true, the injuries could shelve 40 percent of the team’s offensive line for a month.

Slauson is easily the team’s most-consistent lineman. Losing him will hurt, no matter how well Michael Ola played on Sunday. Ola looked good, earning the top grade in our BR Trench Report, yet he’s not a proven commodity like Slauson.

That said, if Ola plays at the same level he did in Week 1, the drop off in production will be hardly noticeable.

Brian de la Puente will take Garza’s spot at the pivot. Based on his performance against the Bills – who boast a defensive line that finished with the second-most sacks in the league in 2013 – a case could be made that the 29-year-old de la Puente is a better option than the 36-year-old Garza.

To bolster offensive line depth, the Bears today acquired Eben Britton, who played 239 snaps for the Bears last year as the club’s third offensive tackle, or monster tight end. Britton graded one of the best run blockers on the team last season, yet a hamstring injury suffered the first week of training camp opened the door for Ola to claim the team’s sixth-man role.

The Bears also had concerns about the health of Britton’s hamstring, yet he worked out at Halas Hall yesterday and the signing signals the team’s confidence in his health.

Britton has a year’s experience in coordinator Aaron Kromer’s system, so there will be no learning curve, and he has starting experience at both guard and tackle. He’s also well-liked in the locker room. With Ola, de la Puente and Britton, Chicago’s offensive shouldn’t skip a beat.

The key here is Kromer, whose offensive lines have ranked in the Top 5 in sacks allowed each of the past five seasons. Within his system, he’s had success no matter the personnel. With the backups he has in place to support his two Pro Bowl offensive linemen, right guard Kyle Long and left tackle Jermon Bushrod, as well as right tackle Jordan Mills, a drop off up front appears likely.

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com 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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