BOURBONNAIS – Injuries had the Bears down to their third-string left tackle. A starting guard was at center. A right guard was at left guard. The two competitors for the starting job at right guard were in the same huddle.
No, this was not (pick a week) in the second half of last season. It was Wednesday’s practice and offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer wasn’t particularly distressed, at the injuries or anything else about the chaos.
“I think now, as early as it is, [the injuries are] minor issues,” Kromer said. “We’ll get them back as quickly as possible and it just gives other guys more reps. ...
“Our goal is to find the best five. When we find the best five, it’ll be obvious. Whether we put them at left guard, right guard, whover they are, we’ll find them. And we don’t control when that’ll happen. It’ll just happen.”
Something already is happening. The offensive line went out together on their off night in Bourbonnais and a group that ranges from a 13-year veteran (center Roberto Garza) to two rookies (Kyle Long, Jordan Mills) has shown early indications of mixing well off the field as well as on it.
“It’s like grandma’s good stew,” said tackle Jonathan Scott. “It’s just got that something in it. It’s just one of those things, you can’t quite put a finger on it but you’ve just got that feeling. You know that feeling when things are going right.”
[NOTES: Bears buying into Trestman's offense]
They haven’t always gone right. They haven’t had to hit anyone in the uniform of a different team. And going against a line returning all four starters, two of them Pro Bowlers, on a front that keyed the NFL’s No. 3 scoring and No. 5 yardage defense has not gone especially well every day.
Coaches and players want a final five decided upon sooner rather than later. Games will settle some of that, at least at right guard, the only true position competition on-going.
But the Bears, who have hinted at an occasional “rotation” on the offensive line, typically activate just seven offensive linemen on game days. That means former Jaguar guard/tackle Eben Britton, at guard so far in camp, may be dropped in at left tackle; left guard Matt Slauson may forced to slide in at center; right guard James Brown may need to move to left; rookie Kyle Long may be starting or may go to right guard if Brown goes to left.
All of which happened on Wednesday.
And the offense punched in touchdowns on its first two red-zone plays.
“Guys are playing well,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “They are up there, we’re learning the offense, they’re getting the calls. Lost a few guys up there [left tackle Jermon Bushrod, calf injury; Scott, knee] so it gives other guys an opportunity to step in. This is a great time to see what everybody has.”