As O-line goes, so goes Bears offense
BOURBONNAIS — The training-camp portion of the preseason is in the books, but it remains to be seen when the training wheels will come off the Bears' new offense.
Thursday night's second preseason game may give a small indication of how far the offense has come, but until the starting five linemen have been identified, any progress is likely to come sporadically.
“It's a new offense,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “It's different guys. I don't think you can really say we need to be here, we need to be there. There are too many variables.
“We're definitely getting better. I think guys are getting more and more comfortable with the offense. It's just one of those things you've got to come out every day and pick out one thing and try to get better at it.”
For now, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is preaching patience.
“When you're a new staff on a new team, it's going to come slow,” he said. “We're trying to get a feel for the players and what they do best. As they learn our system, they'll fit themselves into it.
“As it's going, it's going well. It's on pace. Would you say we're ready for the Cincinnati Bengals in (regular-season) Game 1? I'd say 'no.'”
The offense of Kromer and head coach Marc Trestman is advertised as being quarterback friendly for reasons Cutler mentioned.
“You get rid of the ball,” said the QB, who has operated behind offensive lines that have allowed 149 sacks over the last three years, second most in the NFL. “You're not back there going through reads. It's quick. You get it to playmakers, and we're going to mix in some play-action (passes).”
In each of the final three practices at Olivet Nazarene University, the first-team O-line included two rookies: first-round pick Kyle Long at right guard and fifth-rounder Jordan Mills at right tackle.
The Bears could go into Thursday's home preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers with the same alignment, but it's unlikely they would start the regular season that way, unless Mills' learning curve spikes sharply.
“They have grown each and every day,” Trestman said of the rookies. “They have made mistakes, as young guys do, and we haven't decided how we will play them. They're going to get significant work, and they'll have the opportunity to play some against San Diego's ones.
“We're excited about what they have done. We see it every day against some of the best defensive linemen in the league (in practice). So we're excited to see how that transitions over to Soldier Field on Thursday night.”
Mills got his chance to run with the ones after a less-than-stellar performance by J'Marcus Webb in the preseason opener.
Veteran Jonathan Scott would have gotten a shot to claim the right-tackle job he handled for seven games last season, but he has been sidelined for two weeks with a right-knee injury that finally appears to be improving.
“His knee was aspirated over the last couple days,” Trestman said. “It looks like it's gotten better. We should see some movement in the right direction in the next few days and the next week. (Head athletic trainer) Chris (Hanks) was positive about Jonathan getting back to us next week.”
Coaches are expected to continue shuffling personnel up front for a while, but everyone concerned would like to see a starting five identified as soon as possible so the unit can coalesce.
“It very rarely works out like that,” Cutler said. “We're very confident in the five guys that we have right now. Obviously, Thursday is going to be an indicator of where we go in that direction, but I think 'Krome' is doing a heck of a job with those guys.
“He's one of the best offensive coaches that I've been around. He's a great teacher, and he's doing the best work he can possibly do with those guys.”
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