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Bears Fri Nov 09 2012
Any conversation about the Bears these days begins with gushing over their dominant and flat out ridiculous ability to force turnovers. This week specifically, the discussion may drift toward Charles 'Peanut' Tillman, and whether or not he should potentially miss a game for the birth of his child (if she's in labor, he shouldn't play, and you're a dolt if you think otherwise. Family comes first, regardless of profession).
After a few minutes of love spewing about Tillman, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, and Brian Urlacher, along with some sort of comparison involving the '85 Bears (please, just stop already), the chat quickly shifts to the offensive line's inability to protect the team's greatest asset: Jay Cutler (no, I'm not saying he's the best player, but he's the most important).
The talent on the offensive line has been an issue for the Bears for years. Since John Tait's retirement in 2008, left tackle in Chicago has been one of the biggest non-quarterback positional black holes in the NFL. But would it surprise you that the Bears don't have the worst line in football? The first hint: After Chris Williams release, he received multiple contract offers from other teams around the league.
How aren't the Bears the worst? Even the national media has weekly discussions about the Bears porous line. The answer: run blocking.
Despite the issues of keeping Cutler perpendicular to the ground, the Bears linemen are actually considered among the top ten in the running game according to profootballfocus.com. Gabe Carimi, for all the talk he gets for his awfulness in pass protection, is actually really good at blowing open lanes for Matt Forte. The same goes for guards Lance Louis and Chilo Rachal.
What is a big problem in Chicago, is an even bigger issue for a team like the Arizona Cardinals (who are thankfully on the Bears schedule in Week 16). They've lost countless offensive linemen to injuries, and don't have anyone talented to take their place.
Offensive line play in the NFL is so bad right now that Michael Lombardi, currently working for the NFL Network and former minion for the likes of Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, and Al Davis (before he went crazy), said that if he got back into a management position for an NFL team, he would draft some defensive linemen and convert them to the offensive line because the talent level for the position is so bad.
So when Jay Cutler is getting hammered by J.J. Watt (which reminds me, if another Chicago sportswriter uses a Watt/power pun in their column ever again, the newspaper industry in the city should just shut down) this Sunday, just remember the situation could be far worse. Take comfort in the fact that the Bears have one of the best defenses in the NFL. It's the only way Cutler probably sleeps at night.