Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice gave it to us straight -- or as straight as he could give it to us -- when he talked with reporters after the Bears practiced Sunday night at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
1. The starting center's job is Roberto Garza's to lose. It was assumed that free agent Chris Spencer would inherit the job vacated when captain Olin Kreutz could not come to contract terms. But not only is Spencer not being handed the starting job, he's not even competing for it, Tice said.
''I'm pleased Chris Spencer is coming along nicely and I think what we'll do right now as we get through that first game, we'll leave everybody be, evaluate that first game and see if we need to split some reps [between] Roberto or Spencer,'' Tice said. ''But right now the way things are going and how they're improving every day and [with] all the good things I've seen, I'm not really in the sense that I need to change anything right now.
2. The starting offensive line is set until anybody proves they don't deserve to be there: J'Marcus Webb at left tackle, Chris Williams at left guard, Garza at center, Lance Louis at right guard and rookie Gabe Carimi at right tackle. It is worth pointing out that of those five players, only Williams -- considered the weakest link -- started more than four games at his current position last season.
''Let's get something straight: I have a five starting linemen right now. Unless the five starting linemen falter, that's who's opening the season against Atlanta,'' Tice said. ''There's not a competition. So don't write that. Because whoever's writing that is wrong.
''Right now I'm not seeing that falter. What I'm seeing is improvement every day. That's what I'm looking for. Now, if something happens in the game against Buffalo, somebody doesn't step up to the plate because of the added pressure of the game, then we have to create something. But right now I don't see that. I don't' feel that either.''
3. Chris Williams, the former first-round draft pick who has been moved from left tackle to right tackle to left tackle to left guard and even had a few snaps at center early in training camp, is ''getting better'' at left guard, where he started the final 13 games last season.
''We pointed out some things for Chris to work on - anchoring with his base, trying to keep his feet in the ground more,'' Tice said. ''He's such a good athlete. Sometimes great athletes -- and he's a great athlete for a big man, we've all seen him run -- tend to be up on their toes, because they are athletic. I'm trying to get him to play more with his heels in the ground. If he can do that, that's going to help him anchor. That's going to help him in pass protection. He's working diligently at it. He's getting better every day.''
4. Lance Louis, who started at right guard last year before being replaced by Edwin Williams, who in turn was replaced by Garza when Garza returned from an injury, is starting at right guard again in camp, but could stay there -- or at least in the starting lineup -- for good this time, because he has improved since last year.
''Absolutely,'' Tice said. ''He's bigger, more physical [than last season]. He was physical last year, but he's a guy who's had some experience. He's played in some games. He has more confidence. He's communicating better. He's opening his mouth.
''He such an elite pass protector. He was an elite pass protector last year. But he's doing better in the run game. He can run now -- he played tight end. He's definitely a head of where he was last year.''
Of course, Tice really liked Louis a lot last year too. Still, even to the naked eye, Louis looks like a better player in camp this season.
''Last year I anointed him the right buard because I looked at him and thought, 'This could really help us.' '' Tice said. ''And then he got a couple of nicks and bruises and didn't play through it, because of maturity. This year he's come in with a different determination and different maturity and we're real pleased with where Lance is at right now. Very pleased.''
5. Garza is developing a good rapport with quarterback Jay Cutler, for whatever that's worth.
''We've had one mishandled snap, if I recall,'' Tice said. ''They're doing good with their exchanges [and] with the communication. There's some anxiety there for Roberto. He's only started one game at center in his career. At first I don't know if he was totally embracing it. But he's such a team player, he's going to do what we ask him to do.
''I think there is a chemistry. He doesn't have the same awareness and those type things an Olin Kreutz has, but he's a veteran guy, he's been around a long time. He knows football.''
6. Despite have four players in new positions this season, Tice is encouraged by the line's progress in the first 10 days of camp.
''We're light years ahead of where we were last year. Last year we were moving guys around, trying to find out who should be at what position. You had an offseason in shorts and you thought you had the right idea. They're new to you. You get pads on ... it was a little different.
''This year, great work. We have the same five guys in there. They're getting better every day. Every day on film they're doing a lot more good than they're doing bad. And that's real encouraging. Because I don't know that at any point in camp last year we had that.''