Positional Analysis

Despite releasing Blake Brockermeyer in the off-season the offensive line should be the strength of the offense in 2001. The Bears return four of five starters including Pro Bowlers James "Big Cat" Williams and Olin Kreutz.

The team made a huge commitment to Kreutz this off-season with a $24 million contract. The 25-year-old will anchor a line that allowed a league low 17 sacks in 16 games last season. That level of play will need to be repeated in 2002 as Chicago has two fragile veteran quarterbacks in starter Jim Miller and backup Chris Chandler.

The only question on the line is who'll replace Brockermeyer at left tackle. The candidates are first-round draft choice Marc Colombo and second year player Bernard Robertson. At this point Robertson is atop the depth chart, but training camp and the preseason will determine the starter.

Chances are Robertson will start the season and let Colombo learn from the sideline. It would be in the best interest of the team for Colombo to emerge, which would allow Robertson, the Bears most versatile lineman to be a backup at every line position.

Rex Tucker and Chris Villarrial will provide steady play at guard and there is a chance one or both could make an appearance in Hawaii come February.

However, Chicago will have to make a decision at the end of the season whether to pay Tucker, who will be an unrestricted free agent. However, the team could have two viable replacements waiting in the wings in Mike Gandy and Terrence Metcalf. Each player was drafted in the third round respectively and will gain valuable experience in the preseason and will backup Tucker and Villarrial during the regular season.


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