The biggest criticism of the Chicago Bears this season has been the struggle of the offensive line. Though the team has racked up 4 wins early this season and are 1st in the NFC North, the Bears’ passing and rushing attack has not inspired confidence in fans or the media. The lack of offensive success is due to poor pass protection and run blocking by a line that is the epitome of a work in progress.
In game one against the Detroit Lions, the Bears started Chris Williams (LT), Roberto Garza (LG), Olin Kreutz (C), Lance Louis (RG) and Frank Omiyale (RT). Due to ineffectiveness and injury only Olin Kreutz remains in same position and 40% of the line has been turned over. Omiyale has moved from right tackle to left tackle and Williams, a former 1st round pick, has moved inside to left guard. J’Marcus Webb is the new right tackle and Edwin Williams is the new right guard. This re-shuffling of the offensive line shows the Bears didn’t address it properly in the offseason and will continue struggling unless the coaching staff find the right combination soon.
2009 Season Finale Offensive Line:
C. Williams (LT) | F. Omiyale (LG) | O. Kreutz (C) | R. Garza (RG) | K. Shaffer (RT)
2010 Game One Offensive Line:
C. Williams (LT) | R. Garza (LG) | O. Kreutz (C) | L. Louis (RG) | F. Omiyale (RT)
2010 Game Six Offensive Line:
F. Omiyale (LT) | C. Williams (LG) | O. Kreutz (C) | E. Williams (RG) | J. Webb (RT)
The game of musical chairs on the offensive line has forced Mike Martz to run a less-than-ideal version of his Coryell offense. His offense calls for 5 and 7 step drops by the quarterback and 3 or 4 receivers running routes. Longer quarterback drops coupled with extra receivers in the field means relying the 5 linemen for protection. With 4 of the 5 positions in flux, Martz has tried to tone down his vertical offense by keeping 1 or 2 tight ends in to block more often. He also has chipped pass rushers using running backs instead of allowing them to run full pass routes as he did with Marshall Faulk on the Rams. Mike Martz remains an aggressive play caller though so the line keeps Cutler on the run and on the ground more often than necessary.
Jay Cutler was sacked 6 times including 1 safety in today’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. He was hit by linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. On more than one occasion the Seahawks sent a corner blitz that the Bears couldn’t pick up. He moved around the pocket to buy time and threw the ball away instead of throwing it to covered receivers. Cutler showed improved pocket presence by sliding to the side or stepping up in the pocket and delivered some well thrown passes. Though he had no touchdown passes, he did throw for almost 300 yards and also had 0 interceptions. If the pass protection improves as the season progresses, Cutler will continue looking like the promising QB the Bears expected.
Will the front 5 linemen that start in game twelve against the Lions be the same that was rolled out this week? If so, it means the Bears’ offense has improved and Cutler isn’t being hurried, knocked down and sacked as often as he was in games 1 through 6. If there is another shuffling of the blockers then Martz and Tice still haven’t found the best combination and the Bears’ record could be hovering around 6-6.