Various pundits decried the state of the offensive line and the need to upgrade a group that blocked for 2,015 rushing yards and three different 100-yard rushers in 2011.The Bears didnt see it that way. Not in the first round. Not in the second round. Not even in the third round, where they chose a safety (Brandon Hardin) who missed 2011 with a shoulder injury.Indeed, the Bears opted for special teams and depth at safety over a possible upgrade on the offensive line.They could have gone for quality on the offensive line in the first round, or the second round. Because only one guard and one tackle were selected inRound 3and neither of those until 12 picks after the Bears, its simply possible that they did not have anyone rated worth the third round.But the Bears could have gone for help at either tackle: Iowas Reilly Reiff (No. 23 to Detroit), Mitchell Schwartz from Cal (Round 2, 37th overall to Cleveland), Cordy Glenn from Georgia (41st overall to Buffalo), Jonathan Martin from Stanford (42nd to Miami) and Jeff Allen from Illinois (44th to Kansas City);Or guard: Stanford guard David DeCastro (No. 24 to Pittsburgh) or Amini Silatolu from Midwestern State (40th to Carolina).But the Bears went for Alshon Jeffery in the second round in part because they just arent panicked over left tackle or anywhere else up front.Again, we talked a little bit about the O-line and we feel good about our group,general managerPhil Emery reiterated. Obviously we want to continue to improve. We dont feel like were finished at any position but this was the best player on our board and this person added another dynamic playmaker to us that presented problems for our opponents.
Sometimes the passage of time makes things a little sweeter.
Josh Sitton had been selected to three Pro Bowls while a member of the Green Bay Packers. At the end of training camp last year, the Packers abruptly released Sitton.
On Monday, Sitton was named to his fourth Pro Bowl, replacing former Green Bay teammate T.J. Lang. At age 30, this Pro Bowl was special.
"It's a great honor, always a goal of mine every year," Sitton said via conference call. "It's an honor to me and to the guys I play with, the guys helping me along...
"I would say just the age thing, the older you get, the more you appreciate them. You can't play at a high level in this game so the whole age thing makes it even more special."
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When the Bears were forced to go into Week 1 of the 2015 season with a shuffled offensive line, the situation wasn't ideal; Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long moving to right tackle as a hurried fill when neither Charles Leno nor Jordan Mills were an answer.
The 2016 season also began with an unexpected and significant shuffle, but this time with one that immediately bumped up the quality of the line. GM Ryan Pace moved quickly to sign Sitton after his release by the Green Bay Packers, a step that bumped rookie Cody Whitehair from guard to center, where he earned All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers Association of America.
"It was challenging for sure," Sitton said. "It was something I haven't had to do for quite some time but it was stimulating being thrown in and needing to learn the offense in four or five days."
Sitton, who signed a three-year contract worth as much as $21 million with $10 million guaranteed, joins rookie running back Jordan Howard as the two Bears scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl. He started 12 of 13 games in 2016, missing time with an ankle injury but being a strong presence in a line that ranked No. 8 in sack percentage while getting Howard to a franchise-record 1,313 rushing yards even with a rookie center and a group that never played a game together before Week 1 in Houston against the Texans.
"I think we can only get better, now that we'll have an offseason together," Sitton said. "We'll see what we can do."
The Bears have another Pro Bowler.
After initially getting shut out on the Pro Bowl roster, the Bears have since had two players named as injury replacements with guard Josh Sitton now joining running back Jordan Howard.
Sitton was named as an injury replacement Monday afternoon for Packers guard T.J. Lang, who left Sunday's NFC Championship game early.
This will be Sitton's third straight Pro Bowl and fourth career honor.
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The 30-year-old offensive lineman signed with the Bears before 2016 after the Packers released him.
Sitton played in 13 of the Bears' 16 games including 12 starts, helping to anchor the Bears' line when healthy.
Howard replaced Cardinals running back David Johnson on the NFC Pro Bowl roster earlier this month.