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updated: 8/28/2011 8:17 PM

Bears' offensive line getting better

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  • Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett makes a catch as he is hit by Tennessee Titans defensive back Anthony Smith in the third quarter Saturday.

      Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett makes a catch as he is hit by Tennessee Titans defensive back Anthony Smith in the third quarter Saturday.
    Associated Press

  • Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been happy with the progress of his offensive line.

      Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been happy with the progress of his offensive line.
    Associated Press

 
 

Bears quarterbacks have thrown 88 passes in the past two preseason games and been sacked just twice.

Considering the Bears allowed more sacks than any NFL team last season (56), that's the most meaningful statistic to come out of the preseason, which concludes Thursday night with the finale against the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field.

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"The offensive line did a good job for the second week in a row of giving Jay (Cutler) protection," coach Lovie Smith said. "They also did a good job opening holes for the running game.

"We see progress being made."

More than anything else, that's what coaches needed to see after the realigned O-line allowed nine sacks in the preseason opener against Buffalo.

Having now played three consecutive games with the same lineup up front, the linemen have gained some confidence.

But when the regular season begins Sept. 11 against the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field, all concerned realize they'll be seeing more stunts and blitzes than they have in the preseason.

That's fine with Roberto Garza, primarily a right guard in his previous 10 NFL seasons but now the replacement at center for Olin Kreutz and the line leader who makes all the blocking calls.

"As the intensity picks up, I feel like we're getting better," Garza said. "We're working better as a group, and that's what it's about. Once the regular season starts we have to go out there and prove it to anybody. It doesn't mean anything until we do it against the Falcons."

Cutler has been sacked just once in his last 43 pass plays.

"Those guys are getting better and better with each game," he said. "You can just see their confidence building. Garza is running a clean show out there."

As a group, the Bears' O-line is considered better at run blocking than pass protecting, so the 148 rushing yards (on 35 carries) weren't a surprise Saturday at Tennessee.

Right guard Lance Louis was especially impressive pulling to lead the interference for running back Matt Forte.

"I try to work to my strengths, and pulling's definitely one of my strengths," Louis said. "As a group, we took a step in the right direction (Saturday) night."

As a former college tight end, Louis is better prepared to play on the move than many offensive linemen.

"At least I try (to run)," he said smiling. "Running is one of the things I do well. You just want to make way for the running back. We have great running backs on this team that can take it the distance, so I just try to do my job."

Chris Williams has played inconsistently at left tackle and right tackle since being drafted in the first round in 2008, but he may have found his niche at left guard, a position he was unfamiliar with when he was asked to start 11 games there last season.

"It was good to get a training camp in at guard and get a chance to work through some technique issues," Williams said. "(Offensive line) coach (Mike) Tice had broken down all of the film from last year, and we had some specific things we wanted to work on, and we're still working on them."

The group still may be a work in progress, but the operative word in the past two games has been "progress."

•Follow Bob's Bears reports via Twitter @BobLeGere and check out our Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com.

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