Let's get right to our Trench Report grades of each blocker on Chicago's roster. We'll start with the Saints matchup.
|Week 5 vs. Saints|
**See below for the full grades from each week this season**
The collective overall grade from Week 5 (+11) was the lowest of any single game this year. The Bears gave up three sacks in this contest, the most allowed in any game this season, but all of them came in the first half. The entire front five played much better in the second half and gave up very little pressure on Jay Cutler.
For the fourth time in five weeks, Matt Slauson ended the game with the highest overall grade of all the offensive linemen. That was entirely due to his performance in pass protection, where he graded +7, the highest on the team.
The second highest grade in pass protection went to Kyle Long (+5), who has very good awareness inside and is nearly impossible to get past once he gets his hands on the defender. On the other hand, Long had the lowest run-blocking grade (-3) of the front five. Long had a -5 in Week 4 as a run blocker, making it two straight weeks he's graded in the negative in that category.
Jermon Bushrod was the only lineman to grade positive in every category. He gave up his fair share of pressures and could be blamed for two of the three sacks but he made up for it with a solid second-half performance.
The two worst performances of the week came from Roberto Garza and Jordan Mills. Garza graded in the negative (-1) as a pass blocker for the first time all season. And to give you an idea of how poorly the line blocked for running back Matt Forte, Garza's +2 as a run blocker led the team.
Yet the biggest disappointment was Mills, who graded in the negative in all three of the major categories. After starting the season a robust +24 in pass protection the first two weeks of 2013, Mills has combined for a -4 the following three games. And from Weeks 2-5, Mills has a cumulative run block grade of -5.
Here are the secondary grades from Week 5:
|Overall||Run [Snaps]||Pass [Snaps]|
Notice that FB Tony Fiammetta was asked to block just twice in this contest. This comes after negative run blocking grades in two of the three previous weeks.
Martellus Bennett earned a positive overall grade (+2) for the first time since Week 2, although his snaps were limited against the Saints due to a sore shoulder. That put Eben Britton on the field for 16 snaps, during which he accumulated a -1 overall grade.
Now let's move on to last week's grades versus the Giants.
|Week 6 vs. Giants|
As expected, Chicago's offensive line had a much better performance against New York, which has one of the worst defensive lines in the game. The +30 collective grade is the highest of the group since Week 2. The front five did not allow a single sack for the third time this season, while the offense gained 110 yards on the ground.
Yet those rushing statistics are a bit skewed, as 20 yards of that came on Cutler scrambles. Outside of those runs, and a 15-yard Alshon Jeffery reverse, Chicago's running backs carried 25 times for 75 yards. That 3.0 rushing average isn't going to cut it going forward.
The Trench grades highlight the problem, the primary source of which is Long, who graded in the negative as a run blocker for the fourth straight week. Long lunges far too much when trying to gain leverage and is very easily knocked off balance by physical defenders. If he doesn't soon figure it out how to move players out of the hole, the Bears will continue to struggle moving the ball on the ground. Long is by a far the weakest link in the run game.
Overall, Bushrod came out on top for the first time this season. He was solid in every aspect of the game. And when he gave up pressure, he was able to recover, allowing Cutler room to get out of the pocket. Bushrod isn't perfect but the contest the Giants was the first one this season where he looked like a two-time Pro Bowler.
Sluson was again his usual solid self. He's a rock along the interior and rarely misses a block. He wasn't dominant in either of the past two outings, as he had been the first four weeks, but he limited his mistakes and did a great job of keeping Cutler clean. Slauson's awareness in pass protection, and his ability to transfer from one defender to another based on where the help is needed, is unmatched on this roster.
And we finally see some improvement out of Mills, who had his best overall performance since Week 2. From Weeks 3-5, Mills combined for a -6 overall grade, yet he blew that out of the water with a +7 against New York. He graded positively in each category, which is a great sign going forward. Mills still had a bunch of horrible efforts, and was beaten badly on a number of pass-protection snaps, but he more than made up for it with a solid all-around performance.
Here are the secondary grades from Week 6:
|Overall||Run [Snaps]||Pass [Snaps]|
Fiammetta served as the lead blocker on 16 run snaps and was wildly inconsistent. Through the first three quarters, he routinely missed blocks and was the main reason at least three runs didn't go for big yardage. But something clicked for Fiammetta late in the game and he started to actually clear holes for Forte. I still have little faith in Fiammetta as the club's lead blocker but his performance in the fourth quarter last week is encouraging.
Bennett saw many more snaps against the Giants than he did the previous week and you could tell the shoulder was feeling much better. On the other hand, Britton accumulated a negative overall grade (-2) for the second straight week. He's a big body who adds extra girth in the run game but Britton is the definition of "just another player."
Slauson retains his top spot amongst Chicago's front five with a +73 overall grade. His +14 as a run blocker and +59 in pass protection also lead the team. The past two weeks have propelled Bushrod into second place. Since Week 2, Bushrod has not graded negatively in any category and has provided good stability on Cutler's backside.
The two rookies are now battling for the title of Worst Blocker on the Team, yet each is doing it in his own way. Mills is struggling in protection, although he improved last week, while Long can't get anyone blocked in the run game. Both youngsters have a lot of room for improvement.
|Week 1 vs. Bengals|
|Week 2 vs. Vikings|
|Week 3 vs. Steelers|
|Week 4 vs. Lions|
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.