Updated: Offensive Line a Definite Need

Had 10-year veteran John Tait chosen not to hang up the pads the Bears were going to definitely be in need of O-Lineman on the first day of the draft anyway.  Now with Tait’s retirement and John St. Claire’s impending free agency the Bears could be down to Chris Williams as the only true OT on the roster.  Scarier still Williams has ZERO NFL  starts in his career.

So what does this mean?   It means that of the five O-Lineman rated as potential first round level picks the Bears would  be wise to grab one of them at 18 if he is available.

The next question is who are the five lineman that grade out as potential first round selections?  MMI has the answer with some help from a lot of the draft sites around the web.

Starting with who apparently  grades out as the highest offensive lineman prior to  the start of the NFL  scouting combine:

Eugene Monroe 6-5 310-pound OT from Virginia:

Monroe is described as being a perfect fit for the OT position at the next level.  Big, strong athletic with excellent feet.  Scouts have raved about every cliche you can dish out about an offensive tackle.

However the most entertaining one I heard was when he was referred to as a “dancing bear”.  I have yet to figure out if that was being complimentary or not given that dancing bears are typically goofy circus acts that are often the objects of ridicule and  comedy.  They are not exactly graceful, coordinated, or future anchors at the LT position.

My own comedy aside the combine can be a pretty solid way to judge an O-Lineman’s measurables and athletic cliches.  Jake Long as an example shined in his workout at the combine last year and we all know his draft result and season success.  MMI will definitely be keeping an eye on this kid for the doubtful trade up possibility.

Second we come to a Baylor Bear named Jason  Smith, ah Mike Singletary’s alma mater and he’s a Texas native.  It’s pretty simple really, this kid was born in football hotbed and was bred to play football his whole life.  Almost by default you have to like him as a prospect because of his Texas background.

As we wander into NFL scout and draft expert cornucopia we find various scouting reports on Smith.  The first cliche I find that best descsribes why Smith will be an instant impact in the NFL is he’s athletic for an OT.  Why is he athletic for an OT?  Simply because he used to be a tight end and in true fashion of the land of scouting report abundance that means you’re athletic.  Apparently unathletic stiffs don’t typically play TE, Robert Gallery aside.

So the question is then will he be a dominant OT in the NFL?  I can’t honestly answer that question but what I plan to find out is how does he look in the scouting combine.  Why am I so hyped on the scouting combine for O-Lineman?  Easy there are no pads or jerseys to grab onto and no pads to weigh a prospect down so you can get a clear view of his footwork and balance.  The key to any good OT prospect is his technique and footwork.  Any kid in college that is in the 6-5 300-pound plus range can bulldoze your typical 240-pound college DE.  At least he should be able to.  The question will be how he stacks up against the 260 to 290-plus pound behmoths he’ll find on Sund

But on a more positive feel usually OT is one of the easier positions to evaluate prior to the NFL draft.  If the scouts love this guy as a first rounderand with last years run on OTs it would be nice to see Smith last until 18.

If Smith doesn’t last until 18 the suddenly drifting and falling Andre Smith may fall to the Bears.   Not even two months ago Smith was THE offensive tackle Mel Kiper Jr. was raving about.  Not to be outdone Todd McShay was all over his jock too.  Then something happened, was it his suspension for the Sugar Bowl?   Better evaluation of his film?  We may never know, but the annointed one is suddenly the third or fourth best tackle in the draft.

He has all the positive sueprlatives going for him, but his one negative worries me.  He has problems with speed rushers.  Last I checked this is what Jared Allen excels at among other things.  If you struggle against speed, I automatically want to pencil you in at RT where the strong-side DEs don’t tend to be a defense’s best pass rusher.   Well lookie here John Tait retired as a RT so the Bears happen to need a solid RT prospect.  Smith if he falls to 18 and with his combination of issues from now perceived laziness to a slight character flaw might so happen to fall into the Bears’ lap.  Massive 6-4 330-pound RTs make me drool.  They’re just the type of players that scouts crow about playing the left side, but you can pencil in on the right and be happy for the next 12 years.

Rounding out the list of available OTs is Michael Oher of Miss.   One of the more intriguing prospects on the list because he’s a stronger run blocker than a pass blocker.  Mean and nasty is his game which is precisely what the Bears need.  Someone to come in and flash that nastiness and let it spread across the line.  Olin Kreutz won’t be around forever so having a thug on the line will be a good thing.  Plus having someone there to run block and open holes for the franchise RB Matt Forte is a must.

Coincidentally ESPN’s Scout’s Inc. has Oher rated as the 18th best player overall in the draft.  He has also has a bit of versatility in that he could play guard.  Again right where the Bears may need him to line up if Beekman is the heir apparent to Kreutz at center.

Multiple reports coming from the combine yesterday have the Bears talking to Oher for quite a while during the Q&A session yesterday.  Word is that the Bears focused a lot of their interest on Oher and that Oher had good things to say about what the Bears asked.  Oher said they specifically talked about the way they run their offense, how they practice and more in-depth details about being a Chicago Bear.  Given that the Bears like to “get off the bus running the football” and Oher’s strength in the run game this is a development to keep an eye on.

Sticking with the versatility line of thought we come to Alex Mack from Cal.  The only interior lineman on the list of first round worthy O-Lineman.  Mack is a beast and when it comes to mean and nasty adjectives just about everyone of them has been spit out in regards to this center prospect.  He’s a big boy at 6-4 312-pounds and has played against some solid competition in the Pac-10.   The scouts drool at his as a center prospect and it’s not all that often that  a center is rated as first round worthy.  That speaks to Mack’s tremendous ability and potential.

My line of thought is that Mack and Beekman together are both young one of them is going to beat out the other to replace Kreutz.  The other moves over to left guard and the entire left side of the line is solidified for the next 12 years.  This in turn gives Forte more room to run and it also gives you two QBs on the O-Line.  Two players capable of proper line checks and possessing the awareness and intelligence that the job of center requires makes the whole line better.  All the more important when Kreutz is nearing the twilight of his career.

One thing is for sure if the Bears front office is smart and drafts an offensive lineman in the first round again building for the future it will help the overall health of this offense for years to come.  Yes the Bears need a play maker at WR, yes they need a safety, and you can never have enough QBs on the roster.  At the end of the fourth quarter however what is going to put the Bears over the top is a great offensive line.   The men in the trenches are what gets the job done.  It makes the play of your team better overall.

Another offensive tackle the Bears interviewed was Oklahoma’s behemoth Phil Loadholdt.  Yes that is his name and the kid is a load at 6-8 348-pounds.  Sticking with the theme of offensive tackles who are good run blockers first and foremost Loadholdt spent time talking with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

Given Loadholdt’s ability as a run blocker and his need to develop as a pass blocker you could easily see him lining up at RT at the next level.  Coaches are known to like big massive RTs because it gives offense’s an advantage in the run game and it also allows them to take on the bigger stronger strong-side DEs that are often used to stop the run before primarily protecting the passer.

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