Positional Overview: Offensive Line

Leading up to the Bears mini-camp, which opens on May 20th, Bear Report will examine each area of the team. Today, we look at the changes on the offensive line and if this group can be better than a unit that allowed an NFL high 66 sacks last season.

The Bears are a young team, but the frontline is the one part of the team that has experience. Three starters are thirty or older, while Olin Kreutz is entering his eighth year in the league.

The off-season addition of Fred Miller enabled the Bears to address two positions. Miller will anchor the right tackle spot, which allows John Tait to shift to left tackle.

While Tait is more suited to play right tackle, he's the best option to protect the quarterback's backside. He will be able to draw from previous experience; he spent two years at left tackle before moving to the right side in 2002.

Keeping Rex Grossman healthy is crucial to evaluate his ability to be the long-term answer at quarterback. Miller and Tait will play as big a role as anyone in the process.

The interior of the offensive line is more undetermined.

Obviously, center Olin Kreutz is a mainstay, but there is some question to who will lineup up on either side of the four-time Pro Bowler.

Although Ruben Brown is the favorite to start at left guard, he's coming off neck surgery. At 33, he still has something left in the tank and should be helped by having more stability at left tackle.

The competition will come at right guard. There are three candidates for the job: Terrence Metcalf, Roberto Garza and Qasim Mitchell.

Metcalf finished 2004 as the starter at the position and will likely have the first crack at the top spot.

However, Garza was brought in with the idea of having him battle for playing time at guard. He has the most starting experience of the trio and could be the smart bet to win the job.

Qasim Mitchell started 14 games at left tackle last year and basically had to learn the position on the fly. He had played guard up until the end of the '03 campaign, which is why he could be more effective at the position.

Whoever finishes second and third in the competition will provide depth at multiple positions, a fact that is important when carrying just two or three backup linemen on game day.

Steve Edwards is also a versatile performer, who can play every spot on the line with the exception of center.

A cast of characters will fight it out for the remaining one or two spots over the next four months.

Marc Colombo could have a tough time making the 53-man roster. After sitting out nearly two years because of a career threatening knee injury, he made a remarkable comeback, appearing in the final eight games of the season and starting two. He struggled to hold his own when he was on the field.

Young players that will get a closer look include Bo Lacy and Rob Droege.

Lacy was picked up off waivers during the season's final month. He didn't appear in a game for the Bears, but has the talent to develop into starter.

If it weren't for a knee injury during the preseason, Droege might have been part of the solution at left tackle last year. He inked a contract as an undrafted free agent out of Missouri and impressed coaches before going down.

A.J. Ricker, Bryan Anderson and Cliff Washburn have been gaining experience in NFL Europe. All three will be long shots to make the team, but could be targeted for the practice squad.

There's no doubt on paper the offensive line looks better than a unit that surrendered a franchise worst 66 sacks in 2004.

Being able to build chemistry with new starters at three positions will be at the top of the priority list starting next week.

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