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Line at forefront of offense's emergence

Posted Dec 19, 2013

Skill-position players usually receive most of the attention. But any conversation about the Bears' record-breaking performance on offense this season should also include the line.

Skill-position players usually receive most of the attention. But any conversation about the Bears' record-breaking performance on offense this season should also include the line.

The starting unit of left tackle Jermon Bushrod, left guard Matt Slauson, center Roberto Garza, right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills has allowed their teammates to thrive.

The Bears' revamped line has helped the offense set records this season.
"It's very cliche, but we're going to continue to grind every single day," Bushrod said. "We're going to find a way to get better and study our behinds off. We have great leaders who put in endless amounts of work every single day, on off days, before and after practice.

"When younger guys see that, they want to push harder for that day. We rally around each other and we care for one another. We want each other to have success. We want this team to have success, and we're only going to go as far as we can take us."

The Bears rank second in the NFL and first in the NFC in scoring with 406 points, which is just 50 points shy of the team record of 456 set by the 1985 Super Bowl champions.  

Quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Josh McCown have combined for a 98.3 passer rating and five 300-yard games, the Bears have two 1,000-yard receivers (Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Matt Forte) for the second time in franchise history, and Jeffery and Marshall have combined for the most yards by any two receivers in the NFL.

Every player who throws, runs with and catches the football has benefited from the performance of the line, which was revamped during the offseason with the signings of Bushrod and Slauson in free agency and the selections of Long and Mills in the draft.

"I think the biggest thing is that they've stayed healthy and they've been able to play together," said coach Marc Trestman. "That's the biggest thing in growing lines. I've seen lines with all different talent levels come together because they've played together. That's the No. 1 thing.

"There's so much communication involved and there's so much body language involved and knowing where people are and what they're going to do. Keeping them together and the fact that they're healthy has really helped us get better quickly."

The Bears line is one of three in the NFL that has started every game intact this season.

"Anytime you can play the same five guys for this amount of time it's going to help," said offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer. "The five guys playing together all year has been a benefit to us.

"The offensive line has grown as a group. They're being helped by the fact that our receivers are getting open quick, our quarterback knows what to do and we have a good running back. We feel good about the way the line's playing. There's constant improvement to be made all the time, but we feel good about them."

One key to the line's success has been the development of Long, who joined the Bears after starting only five games at the Division I level in college. The first-round draft pick from Oregon has worked closely with Kromer and assistant line coach Pat Meyer.

"I think he's grown in a lot of different ways; how to practice, how to work and then fundamentally, technically, and mechanically with Aaron and our coaching staff to get better," Trestman said. "I said it during training camp. He wasn't making incremental growth, he was ascending very quickly, really exponentially."

A fifth-round pick from Louisiana Tech, Mills has also excelled as a rookie.

"We've continued to see that ascension with both of them," Trestman said. "They continue to get better. They're not rookies anymore. They've played a lot of football over the last three months. It's a positive thing certainly both in preparation and in performance."

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