The offensive line was under the microscope for the Bears during the team's second preseason game, a 32-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders, and to some extent performed competently.
But in view of Jay Cutler being sacked five times in the first half, there's still a long way to go before Bears fans and offensive line coach Mike Tice can breath easy.
"It's a work in progress," center Olin Kreutz said after the game. "There's room for improvement. That's all I'm going to say about this right now. There were some sacks and the passing game wasn't exactly where we'd like it to be at this point, but there is definitely time left before these games count. But there's good raw material here to work with. We all need to be in our right place at the right time. We'll go back and watch film this week, then make improvements where they are necessary."
2009 seventh-round draft pick Lance Louis, who has taken over at the right guard spot, was not pleased with the game's final score, but he felt the O-line was "definitely on the right track."
"For somebody like me, one of the new guys, its always a learning experience," Louis said. "What I am striving to do now as our training camp winds down is to go out there every single time, perform to the best of my abilities and to get the job done. If I see improvement every week, then I'm satisfied."
Louis praised the continuing help of the veterans, who have been working with him since the spring's offseason program.
"I am settling in," he said, "feeling very comfortable out there, and any time I have a question, I know they will be there to help me. It's in our best interest as a team that we all perform well. I'm definitely trying to step up my game and contribute the best that I am able. With players like these alongside me, I know things will work out well in the end."
Louis was particularly pleased with the 89-yard sprint for a score toward the end of the first quarter by running back Matt Forte.
"We have to give the guys behind us the openings so they can break out something like that," said Louis. It was fun to be a part of that, to see how it developed. You get out there, block your guy and create a hole. That's how things are supposed to go down."
It was apparent that the offensive line got off to a slow start Saturday, as Oakland notched 141 yards passing to Chicago's minus-20 – that includes yardage lost from sacks – in the first quarter. By the half, the stats were still unbalanced, with Oakland putting up 165 yards through the air to the Bears' 62. Cutler often seemed pressed by the pass rush, with only seven of his 16 attempts going for completions.
"That's going to happen now and then," said Roberto Garza, who is making the transition from right guard to left guard this season. "There was one guy on the other side of the line (Raiders defensive end Kamerion Wimbley, who sacked Cutler four times) who got off real fast. He just kept coming. Obviously, we weren't containing him the way we should have, but that's not a reason to get discouraged. There were things we could improve, definitely, but I saw a lot of good out there. What we need to do now is go back and break down the film, then correct our mistakes. I don't see anything insurmountable here. It's just a matter of adjustments needing to be made."
Third-year pro Chris Williams was moved from right to left tackle after Orlando Pace burned out toward the end of last year, and he could become a steady anchor at that position. However, it didn't look that way facing Wimbley. Although characteristically quiet after the game, Williams did offer a few thoughts on his overall performance.
"Nobody likes to lose, nobody wants to see sacks, so I wouldn't say that I'm at all satisfied with what went on tonight," Williams said. "But this is not the time to pout or be sad. This is a learning experience, and it's the preseason. There's plenty of time to make the adjustments where they need to be. I feel comfortable at my position and optimistic about the season. There's a strong group of guys on the line now. Everybody works hard. We have good communication and similar goals. We want to prove ourselves, protect our quarterback and get the win. We'll do whatever's necessary to achieve that."
When asked by a reporter after the game if there could now be some competition to protect Cutler's blind side, coach Lovie Smith shot down that idea in a hurry: "Chris Williams is our left tackle."
General Manager Jerry Angelo has stated he'll be inspecting this group and expecting improvement week to week. Tice and Smith will be watching closely, as well. There's definite potential here, and Bears fans are hoping that potential will be realized before the first snap of the regular season, but the first two exhibition contests were unimpressive overall.
"We're not overly concerned, but obviously we want to win every game," Kreutz concluded. "We'll go back, work hard and get better results."
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Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.
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