2007 review: The Bears were nothing short of dreadful running the football this past season, finishing 30th in the NFL at 83.1 yards per game on the ground. As for the passing game, Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, and Kyle Orton were sacked a total of 43 times – ninth most in the league.
The starting offensive line averaged 31.8 years old in Week 1, but it was a highly-experienced unit that had played together for almost two full years. However, the running game never truly got going as Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson, and Garrett Wolfe combined to average less than 3.4 yards per carry. The three-headed monster at quarterback also threw 21 interceptions, more than just three other teams, and a lot of those picks can be blamed on inadequate pass protection in the pocket.
GM Jerry Angelo did not seriously address the offensive line in free agency or the draft last year since he thought he could squeeze one more season out of an aging group, but that decision turned out to be a critical mistake.
On the rise: While he may never be considered starter-quality in Chicago, backup tackle John St. Clair showed some serious versatility all year long. The former Virginia Cavalier started at left tackle in Week 5 as John Tait nursed an injury, at right tackle in Week 13 when Fred Miller wasn't able to go, and took over at left guard for the rest of the year in Week 15 after Terrence Metcalf proved to be completely ineffective. St. Clair even caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Grossman in Week 2 on a tackle-eligible play.
Free falling: There are many candidates who could find themselves in this category, although Miller is the dubious winner. After 12 years in the league, Miller might not have anything left in the tank as he was continually beaten around right end by speed rushers and got whistled for a bunch of penalties in the second half of the season. Moving Tait back to the right side would be a wise decision since that's his natural position, although sturdy left tackles certainly don't grow on trees.
C Olin Kreutz
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images
Free agency/NFL Draft: Angelo didn't sign any free agent linemen a year ago and waited until the fourth round in the draft to select Josh Beekman, who was active for a grand total of one game. Fans would love to see the Steelers' Alan Faneca in a Bears uniform since the perennial Pro Bowler has priced himself out of the Steel City, although the Colts' Ryan Lilja might make more sense because he won't cost nearly as much. With the 14th pick in Round 1 of the upcoming draft, there are a few young tackles who could be both available and worthy of going that high – Ryan Clady of Boise State, Jeff Otah Pittsburgh, and Chris Williams of Vanderbilt would all be quality additions capable of starting right away.
2008 preview: The offensive line needs to look a lot different than it did last year, as even four-time All-Pro center and team captain Olin Kreutz failed to live up to expectations. Left guard Ruben Brown has played in his last Pro Bowl and could retire after a shoulder injury ended his 2007 early, and right guard Roberto Garza is an average player at best. Angelo must find a guard in free agency because St. Clair is not the long-term answer, and there is no excuse for not targeting a tackle on Day 1 of the draft this time.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.