The Bears are hoping first-round pick Chris Williams will claim the starting LT job, although St. Clair was the starter in preseason workouts. Tait has made the move from LT back to the right side, replacing Fred Miller, who hit the wall last year in his 12th NFL season. Eleven-year veteran Kreutz has made six Pro Bowls but didn't get invited last season, although he remains one of the best. Garza is solid, but the left guard spot vacated by venerable Ruben Brown is up for grabs, and Metcalf gets first crack at it, although he's failed in the past when given opportunities to start. St. Clair started the final three games at left guard last season and could wind up there again, although he's the top backup at both OT spots. Beekman, a fourth-round pick in 2007, didn't get a single snap last season although there were opportunities. He could be earmarked as the backup center.
Starters — LT Jeff Backus, LG Edwin Mulitalo, C Dominic Raiola, RG Stephen Peterman, RT George Foster. Backups — RT Gosder Cherilus, T Jonathan Scott, G Frank Davis, G Manny Ramirez, G Corey Hulsey, T Jon Dunn, T Chris Patrick, G Matt Butler, G Carroll Madison.
Backus, Mulitalo and Raiola are entrenched. There should be competition at right guard between Peterman, a scrappy competitor, and Davis and Ramirez, two strong young interior linemen. Foster was a disaster last season at right tackle. The Lions hope he will be better in a simpler system than Martz's. He played in a zone running scheme in Denver. He enters camp as the starter, but Cherilus is expected to take over the job at some point. Cherilus, the 17th pick this year, is a tough run blocker with a mean streak. He needs to work on his pass protection.
LT Bryant McKinnie, LG Steve Hutchinson, C Matt Birk, RG Anthony Herrera, RT Ryan Cook. Backups — G Brian Daniels, G Artis Hicks, T Chase Johnson, T Marcus Johnson, G Mike Jones, C Tim Mattran, G Dan Mozes, T Drew Radovich, C John Sullivan.
McKinnie's status for at least a portion of the season remains unclear — he could face disciplinary action from the NFL as a repeat offender of the league's personal-conduct policy. If McKinnie does end up sitting out any games, it appears veteran Artis Hicks would replace him at left tackle. This could weaken a left side of the line that features Pro Bowl players in Hutchinson and Birk. Herrera moved into a starting role early last season, beating out Hicks, and helped the Vikings become the NFL's best rushing team. The coaching staff liked the fact that the once-excitable Herrera was able to consistently play under control and he was rewarded with a contract extension. Cook, a surprise second-round pick in 2006, started all 16 games at right tackle and made steady improvement. Depth is the biggest issue for the line. Not including Hicks, of the eight backups listed above, only Marcus Johnson and John Sullivan were draft picks. Sullivan is expected to be groomed to replace Birk, whose contract expires after this season and likely will be allowed to leave. The Vikings also appear to like Mozes and Radovich, who surprisingly wasn't selected in April's draft and was signed as a free agent out of Southern California.