Remember quarterback Jay Cutler's second year in Chicago when he was sacked 52 times in 15 games? He was dropped almost 3 1/2 times a game in the 2010 season, not counting the times he was only hit and not sacked or hurried into a throw.
What a difference three years makes.
Now, in 2013, the Bears featured an offensive line with rookies on the right and veterans on the left, a combination that would help the offense rebound from years of mediocrity. The unit was one of the best in the NFL and now the players have the awards to show for it.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod was one of 26 players to be selected to USA Football's All-Fundamentals team. The award honors players who "exhibit exemplary football techniques for youth players to emulate."
Bushrod agreed to a five-year, $35.9 million contract in March 2013, making him the highest paid offensive lineman in team history. The former Saints blocker helped pave the way for the 2009 New Orleans team's Super Bowl run and has been to the Pro Bowl twice.
On the opposite side of the line at right tackle, Kyle Long was selected to the Professional Football Writers' Association's All-Rookie team.
Long was drafted 20th overall by the Bears in last year's draft and many thought it was a reach for general manager Phil Emery. The former Oregon Duck had little college experience, but had a blend of size and speed that was too good to pass on. The gamble paid off and it resulted in a dominant rookie who would start all 16 games.
Long was also selected to the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie team.
The outstanding blocking as a unit helped running back Matt Forte stay healthy the entire season for the first time since 2010, allowing him to accumulate the most yards from scrimmage and rushing touchdowns in his professional career.
Even backup quarterback Josh McCown had a career season behind the revamped line. After completing one pass in two seasons with the Panthers from 2008-09 and playing only three games in 2011 with the Bears, McCown appeared in eight contests in 2013 and threw for 1,829 yards and a career-high 13 touchdowns.
With four of the five offensive linemen signed for a long time, the unit is in a good position to continue its success. The remaining piece to the puzzle is center Roberto Garza whom Emery appreciates greatly.
The future looks bright for the Bears' offense; I know, we haven't said that in a long time. If the front office can add talent to the defense in the offseason and the plague of injuries stays away, the Bears will have a formidable team for the next half-decade.