O-line Depth to be Tested

The Bears have been blessed with relatively good luck when it comes to injuries halfway through the season. But the offensive line will have to perform without right tackle Fred Miller for at least the next two games after he cracked his jaw in a fall Monday evening at his home.

While Miller had surgery Tuesday to correct the problem, his jaw was not wired shut. The injury will end a consecutive games streak of 110, which dates back to 1998 when Miller was still playing for St. Louis.

John St. Clair will start in place of Miller. It will be the second time this season St. Clair will sub for an injured starter. He got the nod against Minnesota when John Tait's ankle kept him from being able to play.

St. Clair has played both left and right tackle throughout his career, but is a more natural fit on the right side. This week he will be facing Bryant Young, who plays left end in the 3-4 defense. The 12-year veteran is second in the NFL with eight sacks.

When St. Clair was with the Rams he faced Young twice a year, but that's when he played defensive tackle in a standard 4-3. Young would occasionally lineup at end against St. Clair, but this time around he will get a full dose of the four-time Pro Bowler.

"You've got your hands full whenever you're going against a player of that caliber," St. Clair said.

The Bears have allowed 18 sacks through eight games, which puts them on pace for 36 over the course of the season. Last year Chicago surrendered a league high 66 sacks.

It looks as if Ruben Brown could return at left guard this week, ending a four game absence because of a partially torn pectoral muscle. Roberto Garza has played well in his absence and would get the start if Brown suffers a setback this week in practice.

The Bears have been able to have the league's sixth ranked rushing attack with just Olin Kreutz and Terrence Metcalf being the only offensive lineman to start in every contest. When the unit looked to reserves last year the offense fell apart.

Head coach Lovie Smith sees the depth of the team as a key component as the season progresses.

"It's very important," Smith said. "We say we'll need all our guys before the season is over and that's definitely coming into play for us."

Coaches and players credit Kreutz for the line being able to have interchangeable parts and not losing a beat.

"Olin coordinates them well out there," said offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. "We see a lot of different things that people are playing. With the experience and unit playing together they're able to figure some things out."

Kreutz is also banged up, a shoulder injury kept him out of practice on Wednesday. He's listed as probable on the injury report and will make his 49th consecutive start Sunday.

"When you have a good center that directs a line like that it makes it easier for you to play on his team," St. Clair said. "I've been around a lot of centers. He's very vocal. To be a center and do that, that really helps the offensive line."


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