The Chicago Bears begin training camp July 30 on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
Leading up to the first practice, we’ll break down the roster, position by position. We next move to the offensive line, which in April bid farewell to veteran center and team leader Roberto Garza.
Tackles: Jermon Bushrod (ninth season), Jordan Mills (third season), Charles Leno (second season), Michael Ola (second season), Tayo Fabuluje (first season), Jason Weaver (first season), Cameron Jefferson (first season).
Key number: Long is the first Bears offensive lineman named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two professional football seasons.
For starters: Four starters return from an offensive line that helped Matt Forte rush for 1,038 yards, but also surrendered 41 sacks. The best player in the group is Long, a two-time Pro Bowl right guard who late in the club’s offseason program dabbled at right and left tackle. Long is probably a future offensive tackle, but whether or not Chicago decides to move him this year is unknown. Left guard Slauson appeared in just five games in 2014. When healthy, Slauson is a talented interior offensive lineman. Montgomery, 32, replaces Garza at center after previous stops with Bears head coach John Fox in Denver (2014) and Carolina (2006). The Bears are paying serviceable left tackle Bushrod $5.75 million in 2015. Bushrod’s days of playing at a Pro Bowl level (2011, 2012) might be over, but he remains a class act in the locker room and a quiet leader of the offensive line. Right tackle Mills needs to prove he’s can stay healthy after dealing with a foot injury since the end of his rookie year in 2013.
Backup plan: The Bears are expected to stage some form of competition at right tackle, where Mills is the favorite unless the team suddenly moves Long outside. Another player who could push Mills is Leno, the team’s 2014 seventh-round draft pick. Leno spent much of the offseason working with the first team at tackle when Mills and Bushrod were sidelined. The versatile Ola was a pleasant surprise for the Bears last year, starting 12 games. He appeared at every position on the line except for center. If Montgomery falters, the Bears will turn to rookie center Grasu, whom the organization grabbed in the third round of the draft. At guard, Ducasse started 11 games for the New York Jets from 2010-14. This year’s sixth-round choice, Fabuluje, is 6-foot-6 and 353 pounds.
Next: Defensive line