Bears: O-line replacement potentially permanent?
Roberto Garza has been a mainstay along the Bears’ offensive line for many years, but a high ankle sprain has him on the sidelines for the first time since 2010. Filling in for the aging center is Brian De La Puente, the veteran signed by Chicago during free agency after spending the last four seasons in New Orleans. Despite the Bears stating early in the offseason that Garza would remain the starter, we named De La Puente our Secret Superstar for the team based on his past performances and his potential to compete for the starting job.
With 106 snaps under his belt, De La Puente has showcased his capabilities and has earned the highest overall grade along the Bears’ offensive line. He currently ranks as our second-highest graded center overall (+5.4), with the top pass blocking grade and fourth-best grade in run blocking. Assuming he continues to play at a high level, De La Puente relinquishing the starting role when Garza is healthy is difficult to imagine.
At left guard, Matt Slauson is dealing with a similar high ankle sprain that has undrafted, second-year player Michael Ola in the starting lineup. Ola played extremely well against the Bills, finishing with the third-highest grade (+4.3) for a guard in Week 1. However, he allowed a sack, a hit, and a hurry against the 49ers Sunday night, returning to a level of play (–2.8) that was closer to what we saw out of him during the preseason. If he can find a middle ground, he should be serviceable during Slauson’s absence.
That said, Slauson is in no danger of losing his starting spot regardless of how well Ola plays over the coming weeks. He is arguably the Bears’ best lineman and they should be hoping for a quick return.