A Question of Chemistry

With John Tait and Rex Tucker expected to sit out of the preseason opener at St. Louis, it gives the offensive line one less game to become a cohesive unit.

The Bears spent $33 million to bring Tait to Chicago. A groin injury has limited the amount of time he's been able to practice and is a big enough problem it's hampered his ability to play left tackle. This week Lovie Smith said that he will start the season on the right side.

"Right now we have him on once a day program, but he has felt it a little bit from time to time and right now all we want to do is see to make sure exactly what it is, then go from there," Smith said. "It hasn't given him anymore trouble then it was initially."

Meaning Qasim Mitchell will play the most important position on the line. He has to learn on the fly because he'd been a right tackle up until late last year. Now Mitchell is expected to keep the best pass rushers in the game off Rex Grossman.

"It's a lot more pressure on the left tackle cause (you're protecting) the blindside of the quarterback," Mitchell said.

Terrence Metcalf is one of the biggest surprises of training camp. Projected as the backup center heading to Bourbonnais, he's leapfrogged Ruben Brown and Mike Gandy at right guard.

There is a chance that Brown's days as a Bear are numbered if can't win a starting job. There's no point to keep a 32-year-old veteran on the bench when he could easily become disinterested and a negative lockerroom presence.

Olin Kreutz is the only holdover from a year ago. The three-time Pro Bowl center will be counted on to lead a group with four new starters.

With that amount of turnover the group needs time to learn one another. Mitchell and Metcalf have four combined starts between them and will need more attention in preparation for the start of the season.

Tucker, who will likely sit out of tonight's game with the Rams, has suffered season ending injuries the past two years and hasn't played in the Bears last 27 regular season games. When healthy, he's a Pro Bowl caliber player. However on the days the Bears have two practices, Smith has been sitting Tucker for one of the sessions.

Steve Edwards, Mike Gandy and Aaron Gibson started 46 games for the Bears last year and will all be backups unless something drastic happens between now and the start of the season.

The depth of the offensive line should make it an area of strength, but the starters still have to play together for that to happen. If Tait's groin and Tucker's legs don't heal then the inexperience of Metcalf and Mitchell could become a secondary issue.

"The sooner you get five to work together (the better), playing next to a guy for a long period of time is hopefully beneficial," Tait said. "As soon as they can figure that out I'm sure it will be good."


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