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Offensive line tops Bears’ list of priorities

Updated: August 14, 2013 9:28PM



When Marc Trestman, Jay Cutler, Aaron Kromer and pretty much
everyone who matters for the Bears talked about the importance of calling plays, lining up correctly and avoiding pre-snap penalties as the priorities for Game 1 of the preseason, most of you smirked and demanded more.

Unfortunately, this is a process. Those were important issues, and, for the most part, the team got them all right. So what’s next?

The Bears’ goal for Game 2 of the preseason is improving in as many areas as possible.

They won’t talk about winning, losing or stats until Game 3 of the preseason next week. This week, the Bears need to see a lot of young players get better, see some veterans for the first time and see production on the first couple of offensive possessions.

Asked Tuesday where he thinks the offense is, Cutler reminded us: ‘‘It’s a brand-new offense. We’ve got a bunch of new guys. There are just too many variables to say where we should be or where we could be right now. We just have to go a day at a time and get better.’’

Much as he was in preparation for the preseason opener, Cutler is right. But how will we measure that improvement? Cutler needs to lead at least one sustained drive by converting a few third downs. It would be even better for him to put the ball in the end zone.

Trestman is excited to get work for a few more players.

‘‘One thing that’ll be different is we hope to see Brandon Marshall get some work with the first offense,’’ he said.

Trestman also hopes to see defensive ends Corey Wootton and Julius Peppers, who weren’t available last week. Their status is still uncertain.

It also will be very surprising if we don’t see a little more of running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush and a more even balance of running and passing than last week, when the Bears threw more than 70 percent of
the time.

Most important, though, the Bears need to see a significant step forward by the offensive line. Another seven-sack performace would be cause for serious concern.

On Sunday, when Trestman talked about elevating guard Kyle Long and tackle Jordan Mills to the first team in practice, he said it didn’t mean they would start Thursday. After practice Tuesday, it seemed clear they would.

Mills is very clear on what he thinks his biggest challenge is.

‘‘I have to learn to be more patient,’’ he said. ‘‘Coming from college, all you want to do is thrash everybody. But you just can’t
do that at this level. I have to be patient, learn my reads and let the game come to me.’’

It is unclear whether Mills is getting this opportunity because he has earned it or because J’Marcus Webb has struggled as badly as he has, but offensive coordinator Kromer made it crystal-clear what Webb has to do against the Chargers.

‘‘J’Marcus needs reps at left tackle and needs to prove he can be versatile to be one of our final eight,’’ Kromer said.

If Webb struggles at left tackle against the Chargers, he well might be done in Chicago.

Of his two rookies, Kromer said: ‘‘Mills and Long both have a lot of natural ability, but they need more experience. Both need reps. They each had 51 reps last week, the most on the offensive line, and they’ll get more against the Chargers.’’

Eben Britton at right tackle and James Brown at left guard with the second team also bear serious watching. Until he was forced to step in at left tackle and struggled last week against the Panthers, Britton had been the most interesting development in camp. A strong performance against the Chargers will make him a real threat to take that spot from Mills and Webb.

Brown is probably the only offensive lineman besides Long, Roberto Garza and Jermon Bushrod who is guaranteed a roster spot, but he needs to establish his ideal spot if he’s going to start.

Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com . Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com .



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