O-Line Key to Success

The Bears may have ranked 29th in total offense last season, but there is hope for improvement with more consistent quarterback play. However, it's the men in the trenches that could determine the direction of the offense.

The same starting five that ended the season returns intact for 2006. The veteran unit of LT John Tait, LG Ruben Brown, C Olin Kreutz, RG Roberto Garza and RT Fred Miller combine for more than NFL 500 starts.

Although there are questions at every other area of the offense, the stability of the line should help ease any concerns.

No matter how things play out in the backfield, the Bears run oriented philosophy will not suffer. Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson all averaged over 4.0 yards per carry last season. The team rushed for more than 2,000 yards for the first time since 1990. The feat is even more impressive considering the lack of a passing threat.

Despite having a rookie quarterback behind center for 15 games, Chicago surrendered just 31 sacks, which is a drop of 35 from 2004.

The focus will now be on keeping Rex Grossman upright. He's started just seven regular seasons games in his first three years in the league. Injuries have cost him the vast majority of the past two seasons. For the first time in his pro career, he had an off-season to relax rather than rehab.

To strengthen the depth behind center, the Bears signed Brian Griese to backup Grossman. However, Griese is coming off knee surgery and will need time in the pocket.

The average age of the starting offensive line is 31, so depth could play an important role. Kreutz, a five-time Pro Bowler, was the only member of the group to start every game last year.

Terrence Metcalf, who started 13 games last season, is a luxury as a reserve. He's the obvious replacement when Brown's contract expires at the end of the season. In the meantime, he can play any of the three interior spots.

John St. Clair started at both left and right tackle last season. He can be an effective spot starter, but asking him to fill in for more than a game or two could be risky.

A second year in Ron Turner's scheme should help the offense as a whole take a step forward. While familiarity with the playbook will also help the o-line, simply playing together for another season will boost the chemistry of the group.

Despite the lack of attention the grunt work usually receives, the Bears chances of winning and making a deep postseason run increase dramatically if the unit is able to control the line of scrimmage.

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