Injuries on O-line Force Bears to Shuffle

Lake Forest - The Bears offensive line has given up 43 sacks this year, which is the most in the NFL. Ruben Brown was one of the few performing well, but the veteran will not suit again this year because of a neck injury.

Brown started nine of the first 10 games at right guard, but missed Thursday's contest against the Cowboys because of the neck problem, which Lovie Smith compared to what Jerry Azumah missed two months with following surgery for a herniated disk.

Brown is expected to make a full recovery following surgery and has two years left on a three-year contract.

The offensive line has had to deal with shuffling starters in and out of the lineup all season. John Tait sprained his right MCL in the first half against the Cowboys and didn't return. Smith said Tait was day-to-day, but there is a good chance he will miss some time.

"Every guy that you lose right now really hurts you," Lovie Smith said. "We're thin as it is so all of these guys (add up). In one day of course we lost Ruben Brown and John Tait was only able to play a small amount. That hurts a lot, especially when you're struggling a little at other positions."

Steve Edwards, who started against Dallas at left guard for Brown, finished the game at right tackle. If Tait were unable to go, Edwards would be among three options to fill the void.

Qasim Mitchell could slide over from left tackle or Aaron Gibson, who started 16 games at the position last year, could get the nod.

Marc Colombo is likely to see increased work at left tackle. Although he had a second holding penalty in as many games, the Bears are in the process of evaluating his progress.

Rex Tucker has struggled since returning from a dislocated elbow. While left guard is his natural position, he's started five games on the right side because Brown had played well since taking over for him in training camp.

The Bears may chose to move Tucker back to the right side and allow Edwards or Terrence Metcalf to start at left guard. Metcalf had moved to the top of the depth chart at the position in training camp before an ankle injury relegated him to backup duty.

At this point, Olin Kreutz starting at center is the only sure thing on the offensive line.

The unit was thought of as a strength coming into the season, but injuries have diminished the quality of play. The Bears have battled the same issue the past two seasons and haven't had the entire group together for a full season since the 13-3 campaign in 2001.

With Chad Hutchinson expected to make his first start for the team a week from tomorrow the offensive line will have to give him time to throw. Over the past four games Chicago quarterbacks have been sacked 21 times.

Part of the blame can go on Craig Krenzel and Jonathan Quinn because both have a habit of holding onto the ball too long.

However, the 43 sacks on the year is the most of any NFL team with the Bears having one more game played than the two closet competitors in the dubious category.


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