Offensive line has potential to be a concern for Bears

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I take a look at the potential offensive line issues for the Chicago Bears.

When previewing the Chicago Bears in 2008, many football pundits will focus on whether or not Kyle Orton can lead this team back to the playoffs or ask if Devin Hester can be an effective No. 1 receiver. But are they concentrating on the wrong position group in Chicago?

A once dominant unit just a few years ago, age and ineffective play has slowly made Chicago’s offensive line a potential weakness. There’s no question Olin Kreutz is a rock at the center of the Bears’ o-line, but what’s around him?

Chicago decided not to address their offensive line via free agency and instead concentrated on the draft. The team selected former Vanderbilt offensive tackle Chris Williams with the 14th overall pick in the first round, even though prospects Branden Albert and Jeff Otah were rated higher by scouts.

Projected as a potential starter at left tackle, Williams had to undergo back surgery in early August and now might miss the entire 2008 season. His potential replacement will be John St. Clair, a veteran who has struggled mightily when given the opportunity to start.

Joining Williams on the walking wounded list is Terrence Metcalf, who will miss a couple of weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in early August. His main competition at left guard is Josh Beekman, who offers more potential and versatility than Metcalf, but has never started an NFL game after being selected in the fourth round of the 2007 draft.

Roberto Garza is projected as the starter at right guard and at right tackle is John Tait. Garza isn’t a spectacular player by any means, but he’s a solid run blocker. Same goes for Tait, who can handle his own in the running game, but often struggles against speedy end rushers.

While offensive line isn’t as big of a weakness as wide receiver for the Bears (and any line that has Kreutz at center could be far worse off), the position has to be a concern entering the season. St. Clair will be counted on to keep Orton upright, while Beekman is incredibly inexperienced and Tait often struggles in pass blocking. Chicago struggled mightily moving the ball in 2007, even with Hester often giving the team tremendous field position.

The Bears might have miscalculated their need to upgrade the offensive line in the offseason and the injury to Williams was a tough setback. Will not addressing the o-line more this offseason come back to haunt the Bears in ’08?

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