What to Do with the Middle of the Bears Offensive Line?

Jeff Dickerson at ESPN is reviewing the Bears position-by-position. He starts with the offensive line where he highlights the guard position:

“Two-time Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long and left tackle Jermon Bushrod should return to their customary spots in the starting lineup, although Long has the ability to eventually move outside to tackle if necessary. Veteran left guard Matt Slauson is completely recovered from a torn pectoral muscle that caused him to miss the final nine games of 2014 — Slauson also missed three games last season due to a high-ankle sprain. When healthy, Slauson is an above-average NFL guard and is a strong contender to retain his starting job.”

The fly in the ointment here is draft pick Hroniss Grasu. Grasu is considered to be the future at center and there’s the remote possibility that he could beat out Will Montgomery for that job. But center is a tough position to learn and most people believe that Grasu will be a guard for at least a year before moving to his natural position. If he moves into the starting lineup there, the assumption that it would be at right guard with Long moving to left tackle and Bushrod replacing Jordan Mills at right tackle. But as Dickerson reviews Slauson’s injury history above, you have to wonder what the Bears are thinking on the left. Is it possible that Grasu could move there in place of Slauson?

Slauson is entering the second year of a 4 year contract with $4.9 million guaranteed. The dead space on the cap would be $1.252 million if he was released which would make it unlikely that he would fail to make the roster. But that doesn’t guarantee a starting job. It’s also possible that Slauson would make a decent right tackle.

A move to left guard for Grasu might be more likely because it is considered to be an easier position to play for a rookie to play.  It generally results in fewer one-on-one blocks than the right guard position. And there’s no guarantee that Long would be as good at left tackle. You could argue that having a Pro Bowl right guard is more beneficial than an average left tackle – which Bushrod already is.

I’ve a sneaking suspicion that if he’s not starting at center, Grasu’s 2015 will be spent as a reserve.  The Bears are undoubtedly going to do more zone blocking but they are still going to mix it up and I doubt that Grasu has the size to play guard on either side of the line as well as the current starters. But if he moves into a starting roll this year you have to wonder if it will be more likely to be in place of Slauson rather than Long.

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