The Heat Is On

There appears to be only one opening on the offensive line. Terrence Metcalf has the right guard job for now, but he has been given opportunities in the past only to lose them based on performance or because of injury. Metcalf will have plenty of competition this summer.

Roberto Garza, Qasim Mitchell and Steve Edwards are all possibilities, with Garza the best bet to unseat Metcalf if he falters.

"We've got some players who are pretty comparable in ability and it's really hard to judge offensive linemen without shoulder pads on," said new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, who was new offensive coordinator Ron Turner's right-hand man at the University of Illinois the past eight seasons. "So we'll find out a lot about our football team and our offensive line when we put our pads on and go to work."

Each candidate can play multiple positions, which makes the offensive line deeper than it was a year ago.

Metcalf has backed up C Olin Kreutz, while getting each of his 7 career starts at guard. A third round selection in 2002, Metcalf was part of GM Jerry Angelo's first draft class. He will be given every opportunity to win the job, but loyalty to a draft pick will only take him so far. If another player outperforms him in the preseason, a backup role awaits.

Garza considers himself a natural center that has played guard the bulk of his four-year career in the NFL. Despite tearing his ACL in the final month of 2003, he started 15 games for the Atlanta Falcons last season.

Edwards can start at either guard or tackle and is a valuable utility man on game day. With a veteran offensive line, he could start for a brief period of time without being a hindrance.

After starting 14 games at left tackle last year, Mitchell has moved back inside, where he spent his entire career until coming to Chicago. After playing the most difficult position on the offensive line the switch to guard may be the best thing for Mitchell.

The competition at right guard will be an interesting storyline throughout training camp and the preseason. Metcalf has the inside track heading to Bourbonnais, but the job is far from locked up.


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