BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Marc Trestman urged not to make too much out of the changes along the offensive line as of Sunday’s practice. Don’t leap to conclusions about the insertion of Jordan Mills at right tackle and leaving Kyle Long at right guard for all of the work with the No. 1 offense.
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But it’s difficult not to make quite a bit out of it. Two reasons:
First, Trestman and the coaches certainly can say that the shuffling is to see players in different spots. That’s true, always is. You want flex, particularly when some roster decisions will turn on that. The Bears are not likely to keep all three of J’Marcus Webb, Eben Britton and Jonathan Scott, for instance, so whichever can offer more flex is ahead on points.
But they don’t need a look at Webb at left tackle. They have two years of film of that. And this is one area where there is real urgency to get a front five settled upon sooner rather than later, if for no other reason than to reassure a sometimes-skittish quarterback.
Coincidentally, C-LG-LT Roberto Garza, Matt Slauson and Jermon Bushrod are staying quite put. Slauson can play and has played center but is staying right where he is with the No. 1 offense. Same with Bushrod and Garza, who was a starting guard until 2011.
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Yes, Aaron Kromer and this staff do want some interchangeability among the OL parts. They want the dominant five even more.
Second point: Kromer is as good as it gets at developing not just offensive linemen, but also offensive linemen who are late-round draft choices. Jermon Bushrod (fourth round); Jahri Evans (fourth round); Carl Nicks (fifth round).
And who are rookies: Evans started all 16 games as a rookie. Nicks started 13.
The notion of rookies starting is just fine with Kromer, whose shared No. 1 priority with Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is to get quarterback Jay Cutler throwing the ball on time. Knowing he’s got a couple of rookies standing watch on his right side might underscore that urgency a bit.
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Best guess is that right tackle and right guard are now Jordan Mills’ and Kyle Long’s jobs to lose.
The San Diego game will be a more detailed look at the 2013 Bears offense, which makes the Mills-Long pairing even more worth watching, since they should be playing more than starters Webb and James Brown last Friday.
But the Bears will not be the only team in Soldier Field with a rookie presence at right tackle and inside linebacker, where Jonathan Bostic is settling more and more into the No. 1 MLB spot for the Bears.
Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, San Diego’s second-round pick, is listed as a starting inside linebacker for the Chargers. But Te’o suffered a foot sprain in a lackluster performance in San Diego’s first preseason game and won’t play against the Bears.
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But massive (6-5, 340 pounds) former Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker will and he, like Jordan Mills for the time being, is the starting right tackle, meaning he should be facing Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin.
Fluker is in the tradition of field-tipping right tackles that has changed in recent years as the NFL has tilted increasingly to passing and the need for pass protection. Wootton did not play in Carolina and McClellin did not scratch the stat sheet, and against a rookie (or anyone else, for that matter), the Bears need considerably more.
The defense delivered only one sack and one quarterback hit against Carolina, both by defensive tackle Nick Collins.