22 Starters in 22 Days: Roberto Garza

Even though Roberto Garza started just seven games for the Bears in 2005, he showed enough to earn an extension and the inside track to the right guard job. However, the competition is far from settled.

Terrence Metcalf started the first 12 games of the season at right guard, before missing three of the final four regular season contests as well as the postseason game because of a shoulder injury.

Garza filled in for Metcalf and more than held his own. The coaching staff is so confident in Garza that he was anointed the No. 1 right guard as far back as March.

Still, Garza has battled injuries throughout his five-year career and will have to prove he can stay healthy. He's never started all 16 games in a campaign and is playing without cartilage in his right knee.

Garza and Metcalf offer different options. At six-foot-2, 300-pounds Garza is more of a tactician and finesse blocker, while Metcalf uses his six-foot-3, 318-pound frame to move opponents out of the way. Either is capable of playing all three spots on the interior of the line. The versatility makes them invaluable on game day, when usually only seven linemen are active.

No matter who captures the job in training camp, the Bears have invested in Garza and Metcalf over the long-term. Each received new contracts since the end of the regular season and are signed through 2010. Ruben Brown is entering the final season of a three-year deal. At 34, the Bears are unlikely to re-sign the 12-year veteran, which makes Metcalf or Garza the logical replacement.

At 27 and 28 respectively, Garza and Metcalf are the youngest players toward the top of the depth chart on an aging offensive line. Three of the five starters are 31 or older and four have at least 94 starts on their resumes.

If Garza does have one definite advantage over Metcalf it's in experience, with twice as many starts (38) than Metcalf (19).

At this point, the right guard job is Garza's to lose. The biggest obstacle in him holding off Metcalf will be staying out of the trainer's room. When healthy, Garza is the more polished player, but Metcalf is still a capable starter and could play an important role over the course of the season.

The Bears have not had the same offensive line start all 16 games since 2001. In fact, center Olin Kreutz is the only member of the unit to start every game in each of the past two seasons.

Reserve linemen with starting experience are a luxury most teams covet, but the Bears have in abundance. Along with a solid starting five, it makes the o-line among the best in the league.

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