Into the Fire

The Chicago Bears offensive line is one of the most respected and talented in the NFC. The Bears offensive line will return two Pro-Bowl offensive linemen; right tackle James "Big Cat" Williams and center Olin Kreutz. Despite the quality of their offensive line, there is an opening at left tackle.

Thought by many as the most important position on the offensive line, the left tackle's main responsibility is to protect the quarterback from the oncoming rush. The right-handed quarterback Jim Miller is unable to protect his backside from the rush, which will be the job of the new left tackle. The competition to fill the vacant spot at left tackle will be a battle between rookie first round pick Marc Colombo and Bernard Robertson, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2001.

Though Robertson has been in the NFL for one year, neither have any playing experience on the NFL level; Robertson failed to play in any of the Bears contests last season. Though Robertson has more experience with the team, most figure Colombo to assume the position and keep it throughout the season. Assuming the talented Colombo can win the starting position in training camp, he will have his hands full in his first NFL season, going head to head with some of the NFL's best pass rushers.

Colombo will have a rather mild test over the first four weeks of the season, facing inexperienced and still developing pass rushers. The first big test of the season will be October 7 on Monday Night Football versus the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay will suit up 3rd year right defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila who finished his second season in the league with career high 13.5 sacks. The week after, Colombo will match against veteran defensive end Robert Porcher. The veteran finished the year with 11 sacks. Porcher makes a living off of less experienced tackles, using his veteran experience to beat his opponent and sack the quarterback.

Over the course of the year, the Chicago Bears left tackle will face the likes of rookie 2nd overall pick Julius Peppers, Hugh Douglas (9.5 in 2001), Simeon Rice (11 in 2001), Jon Abraham (13 in 2001), and Leonard Little (14.5 in 2001). The Bears will also face the Packers Gbaja-Biamila and the Lions Robert Porcher twice in the 2002 season. No doubt this will be a tough test for Colombo and the rest of the offensive line, but is the rookie ready.

"I think the O-line is unbelievable here, and the coaching staff. I look forward to the opportunity," said Colombo.

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