As reported yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times, Mike Tice has announced the starting offensive line.
Tice noted that there is no competition and that the current starters are there unless they prove they don't belong.
So who makes up the Bears' 2011 offensive line? Roberto Garza will start at center. Chris Williams will man the left guard position and J'Marcus Webb will anchor the blind side. On Garza's right will be Lance Louis and to his right, first-round rookie Gabe Carimi will be mauling from the right tackle spot.
This means that Carimi will be the only member new to the line, though the only member of the line that started more than four games at his current position is Chris Williams.
Many are going to pan this move without prejudice. And who could blame them?
The line will return four players from last year's atrocious squad that allowed 56 sacks in the regular season alone and allowed the New York Giants to a new record for most sacks recorded in one half. Quarterback Jay Cutler finished last season looking like he spent five championship rounds in the octagon with Cain Valasquez.
Meanwhile the Bears parted ways with fan and locker room favorite Olin Kreutz over what ended up being a difference of $500K and then signed a center to replace him that isn't even competing for the starting job, forcing the Bears to move their starting right guard to center.
Will the Bears offensive line show significant improvement in 2011?
But in the end, this may be a better situation than the Bears will initially be given credit for. Garza, Louis and Carimi will give the Bears a push on the right side, especially in short yardage situations, that was sorely missing last year. Webb showed a lot of improvement as the season wore on, and Williams was improving as he learned the guard position, as well.
Maybe just as important is that the Bears appear to be abandoning the "Musical Line" game they played last season, when they rotated the line and the players on it five times over the course of the season, with eight different offensive linemen starting at least two games.
Giving the line some stability can only help and is likely the best chance this line has of growing and succeeding. Tice made a wise decision in showing confidence in a set group early on, allowing that group to gel as quickly as possible and allowing the linemen to focus on getting better as a team rather than trying to outdo each other to earn a starting position.
Of course, how permanent this "set" line actually is remains to be seen.
Let's hope it works, as another year behind the Matadors of the Midway could prove disastrous for Jay Cutler and the Bears.