A Bears O-line without the ‘oh, no’

Written By BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter Posted: 06/22/2014, 02:34am

Jared Allen spent his career feasting on the Bears — he sacked them 15 times in 12 games with the Minnesota Vikings — so he knows a flimsy offensive line when he sees one.

This year’s version isn’t that.

‘‘There was a time in the past when I think the O-line here wasn’t the strongest,’’ the Pro Bowl defensive end, signed to a four-year deal in March, said this week. ‘‘But [left tackle Jermon] Bushrod is a real good player. He’s athletic. He can do stuff. [Right guard] Kyle Long, [center Roberto] Garza From the interior out. Jordan Mills — he’s the young guy on the team.

‘‘They work well together. Watching them interact together, you can tell they’re a tight-knit unit. When you have a quarterback like Jay [Cutler], and what they can do getting the ball out, it’s scary.’’

It’s amazing what a full year together can do.

Last season, despite having four new starters on the offensive line, the Bears were one of only three teams to start the same five men in every game. All five return this year, including Pro Bowl player Long.

‘‘I don’t have analytics on it,’’ coach Marc Trestman said. ‘‘But I would say that teams where their offensive lines stay together throughout the season have a tendency to improve offensively throughout the season.’’

Combine the returning starters and veteran backups, and the Bears — when was the last time you heard this? — have few, if any, questions on the offensive line.

‘‘You know, we’ve really answered the question,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘It’s a good thing. We feel very fortunate, but there’s no guarantees that we’ll play as well.’’

The Bears know they can’t count on the same run of health, marred only by the broken foot that forced Mills out of the game in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers in Week 17.

‘‘This is a brutal sport we play,’’ Bushrod said. ‘‘You might have all five guys one day, and the next day someone goes down [and] somebody has to jump in and fulfill that job.’’

The Bears spent three days of mandatory minicamp testing just that. Left guard Matt Slauson did not participate all offseason after shoulder surgery. Mills, coming off a foot operation, played in organized team activities but not the minicamp. Both should be fine by training camp, but the Bears relished a chance to evaluate their backups.

Eben Britton, back on a one-year contract, played right tackle. Brian de la Puente, who started all 16 games at center for the New Orleans Saints last year before reuniting with Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer on a one-year deal, played left guard.

‘‘It’s one thing to know a coach, but you’re also in the business of getting your teammates to trust you and respect you,’’ de la Puente said. ‘‘So to me, I think this is a very important time. It’s a time you establish relationships. You kind of get kinks out. . . . Right now is when we all get on the same page and those relationships are established.’’

When he arrived, de la Puente said, the line acted as if it had been intact for longer than one season.

‘‘That’s important when you’re talking good O-lines,’’ he said. ‘‘When you can get a group together for multiple seasons, things become second nature, become habit. That’s what we’re trying to do here: create those habits and create those techniques so that we’re on the same page the entire time.’’

Britton called the Bears’ continuity rare, given the propensity of player movement.

‘‘That’s a great starting point going into the year,’’ he said, ‘‘a great foundation for what we could build toward.’’

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley

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