Whether or not most of us are saying it, we're definitely thinking it:
There's no reason for the coaching staff to separate the rookie right side of the offensive line after both Kyle Long and Jordan Mills took encouraging steps in the right direction Thursday night at Soldier Field.
When the Bears begin three days of practices at Halas Hall ahead of the most important game of the preseason, Marc Trestman and company will be keeping them together, and we'll see how they fare in "The Black Hole" Friday night against other NFL starters for an extended workout under pressure. It won't always be pretty, as John Mullin writes, because the intensity, the degree of difficulty, and the quality of opposing pass rushes turns upward in less than three weeks. But which combination's been better and has more upside to this point? I'll place my trust in Aaron Kromer's track record in coaching up mid-round linemen.
Remember, Mills confidently said in his first post-pick teleconference with the Chicago media that he planned on starting this season. Seemed kind of brazen and he's come off as pretty humble since. But wouldn't you know it, that confidence may get him thrown into the fire sooner than anyone ever expected.
Who makes the cut?
That brings us to the trickle-down effect for the offensive line depth chart.
No, I don't think J'Marcus Webb necessarily helped his 53-man roster chances just because he agreed to a pay cut Sunday. You have your five starters if that turns into Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Long and Mills.
[NOTEBOOK: Offensive line review]
Teams normally keep a backup at each position. So is that backup tackle Webb, Eben Britton, or Jonathan Scott (with the hope he can finally return to practice this week)? Is your backup guard James Brown? Would Britton be a better fit as that extra tackle since he's a veteran who can play guard? That would mean you'd keep Webb or Scott, but give up on Brown, which seems unlikley. And would you keep veteran Edwin Williams as the backup center, since he can also play guard, or go younger again with Taylor Boggs, who's acquitted himself well so far in camp? Which three? Or do you keep four and sacrifice somewhere else?
Spreading the wealth
Are Bears fans in agreement that, after Thursday night, Jay Cutler can indeed target and find Brandon Marshall when he was the only target he threw to in three series? Should the staff just let Marshall watch against the Raiders and see if Cutler can look for Martellus Bennett (who hasn't been targeted once), Alshon Jeffery, and Joe Anderson?
After all, those are the guys Cutler will need to create a rhythm with when Marshall is covered. And we have to be thinking Trestman doesn't want Cutler to force the ball to Marshall all the time, right? Balance and distribution and creativity is why he was brought here. Anderson's situation becomes even more important if Earl Bennett still can't practice this week from his concussion. Or at least find Devin Aromashodu again.
Backing up the backup
Speaking of the quarterbacks, why the team didn't find a way to bring a fourth arm into camp is a head-scratcher. Sure, the three guys needed reps in the new system. Yeah, they may have wanted to save as much salary cap space as possible. But do you think Jordan Palmer or Trent Edwards would've been fine as a "four" rather than sitting at home?
Unless these veterans might cause waves, it's interesting that Phil Emery has now brought both of them in after trying out the duo in the offseason. It's a dire time and if Cutler or Josh McCown get nicked or go down like Matt Blanchard did against the Chargers, there's now suddenly some money to bring both in, albeit cold to the playbook. Both were scooped up by Emery this weekend in the event another team with an emergency at the position was a phone call away.
Injuries are killers when you're in competition in camp.
For third running back and special teams contributions: hello Michael Ford, so long Armando Allen.
Injecting youth into the "D"
Jon Bostic will be the starting middle linebacker against the Bengals Week 1.
While D.J. Williams is a veteran and could potentially slide back in quickly, you have to wonder what kind of football shape he's in after sitting out for three weeks with a calf injury. And that's if he's back on the practice field this week, which is a big "if."
[RELATED: Long, Mills make most of their opportunity]
There will be highlights from Bostic like the ones he's given us the first two exhibitions. There will also be some "Welcome-to-the-NFL-kid" exposures. But for continuity with Lance Briggs and James Anderson, and to help the future at the position come a little sooner, Mel Tucker might as well forge ahead with the second-round pick.
Based on youth being served at key positions like right guard and tackle, middle linebacker and nickel back, this could very well be a bumpy start unless the light goes on offensively a little more than we've seen. And I'm sure Trestman's keeping things rather "vanilla," but half of the first eight opponents made the playoffs a year ago. Two who didn't are expected to be in the hunt this year (the Saints and Giants). And a trip to Pittsburgh (even if expectations might have fallen this year), is never a walk in the park. If that's the case, the leadership ability of Trestman and his staff will be tested. You'd think this club will get better as the season goes along, provided they hold their own through the first two months.