I had the pleasure of attending Halas Hall yesterday for a broadcast on the state of the Chicago Bears with Lovie Smith, Jerry Angelo and Ted Phillips. Before the actual broadcast, Bears analyst and former offensive guard from the Super Bowl XX champions Tom Thayerwas talking about his feelings on this years’ squad. Without hesitation and to the amazement of many, he said that the Chicago Bears offensive line will be a strength of this team. Here’s what’s even more sad…I was going to write that today before hearing him speak.
I have the Second City mentality running through my veins. But how could I not? Even after winning several key games last season, the national media still hasn’t given the Chicago Bears the credit they deserve from last season and coming into this season. The Bears defeated the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets, and yet, both of those squads are considered much stronger than the Bears. Of course, both of those teams they’ll tell us added pieces to improve. But the Chicago Bears didn’t? One area that many of these experts seem to have tunnel vision with is the offensive line.
Despite the line playing much better down the stretch, it is still considered a weakness by many people. Based on a few games from last season, it was a fair criticism. But, in the typical fashion of the uniformed national media, the Chicago Bears have done a lot to address this issue without it being noticed. The first and most obvious one was drafting Gabe Carimi from Wisconsin. Thayer and Smith called him the best newcomer to this team and could not be more excited about his growth as a football player. J’Marcus Webb ended up being a solid offensive lineman last season. After a bit of a slip-up in the first preseason game, Webb has improved. Mike Tice, who has a track record better than most of us, feels Webb will be a solid NFL lineman for years to come. Between Carimi and Webb, the Chicago Bears have one of the best young combinations of offensive tackles. Take a step back and imagine if the New England Patriots or Dallas Cowboys had this pair, the national media would be loving these two. But because they play for the Chicago Bears, the national media doesn’t even recognize how the Bears tackles are much better than last season and will only get better.
Chris Williams and Lance Louis are your guards. Williams played well last season in his role at left guard and should continue his growth after struggling as a tackle. Louis showed me some real agility and strength during the preseason. Tice loves Louis, and we saw flashes especially on one touchdown run against the Tennessee Titans from week three of the preseason when he pulled through a hole and opened things up on a touchdown for running back Matt Forte.
The Olin Kreutz saga will never die. Members of the national media, the same one’s that criticize the Chicago Bears offensive line, will rip on the Chicago Bears for not bringing back Kreutz. For those of us that actually watched him play, he’s past his prime. He had difficulty with snaps and creating a push. As far as his value as a leader goes, I’m sorry to say this, but leadership is overrated. On many short-yardage situations, Kreutz and his leadership would get shoved backwards. Roberto Garza played center in college, made a successful transition to guard and has moved back to center. Quarterback Jay Cutler seems comfortable with the move, and so do the coaches. Garza has looked solid in the preseason.
Thayer, when asked about Kreutz’s leadership void suggested that there’s enough veterans on this team to step-up into that role including Garza and Carimi.That’s not a misprint. For a rookie to step into an NFL locker room with many top-players and become a leader is amazing. The more I hear about Carimi, the better it gets.
I’d like to add one more thing to my defense if you don’t mind my friends. These boys are smart. Carimi was All-Academic Big Ten at Wisconsin. Webb and Garza also have strong academic backgrounds. Williams went to Vanderbilt. This shows that these dudes obviously are smart and can learn things fairly quickly. With an outstanding line coach and obvious talent, there’s no reason why this group cannot be a strength of this team. I am just glad that Thayer backs up my feelings on this topic.
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