Mini-Camp Position Breakdown: O-Line

Going into the 2008 season there was a lot of questions surrounding the offensive line after the Bears let go of proven and aging veterans Ruben Brown and Fred Miller. In their place stepped in rookies Chris Williams and Josh Beekman. To be fair Beekman was not in his first year in the league, it was only his first year receiving game experience. Williams was injured about 20 minutes into training camp and barely played the rest of the season. Earning snaps in live game action but nothing more than that. From there the Bears posted a better rushing attack than in 2007 and mediocre pass protection at best. Yet some how with average production and protection at best the line earned somewhat rave reviews after the 2008 season.

Puzzling as it may be the 2009 Chicago Bears find themselves in an eerily similar situation heading into mini-camp this week. The offensive line is a question mark with aging veterans and an unproven second year player at the LT spot. John St. Clair’s unresolved free agency situation also hasn’t provided much comfort to the Midway Monster faithful.

Center: Olin Kreutz is a 12-year veteran who is winding down his NFL career. Kreutz is the glue the anchor and all the other fancy adjectives you can throw out there to describe the best lineman on the team who makes everyone around him better. Kreutz has never been a mauler of a center and by almost all scouting accounts is to small for the position at only 6-foot-2 292-pounds. Funny thing is he has been one of the most effective players in the league at his position over the last 12-years. Kreutz has been to six Pro-Bowls in his career earning all the respect necessary from his peers by achieving such an honor.

Kreutz is perhaps known as a fighter both literally and figuratively and he doesn’t back down from anyone. He’ll be the crusty old veteran out there on the field and while he may not be the player he once was he still plays well enough at a consistent level that he could easily be here a few more years at the right price.

RG Roberto Garza may be the most underappreciated lineman on the team given his tenure on the team as a starter. While Garza isn’t a player on an elite level he has been consistent most of his career. Sure with Pat and Kevin Williams in the conference you’d like to see someone who could better hold his ground against those two, but Garza does well enough.

He has struggled more lately and could be seeing some competition from recently acquired free agent Frank Omiyale. Omiyale is being paid starter level money so the speculation is that he’ll be there to push Garza. Garza doesn’t need much pushing but the additional sure fire competition never hurt any team. Omiyale however has yet to play a down at guard and we’ll see how fast he picks up the blocking scheme the Bears run. Developing chemistry will be the key for Omiyale. My guess though is Garza’s job is safe and Omiyale might better push John St Clair at RT though the front office has stated otherwise.

RT Well John Tait retired and John St Clair is unsigned currently visiting the Cleveland Browns so the Bears just may start out with Frank Omiyale at RT for the sake of mini-camp. That would be the smart thing to do is get the younger probably better Omiyale used to playing with the first team. Doing so would also send the message that the Bears do in fact have a contingency plan in place should St. Clair decide to walk.

From my perspective the Bears should most certainly stand pat with their contract offer. St. Clair is not a starter level player. He is a career back up who gets a lot more respect than he deserves for his time as a starter. He is easily the worst OT on the roster and if he decides to walk the Bears would be better off for it. It would easily put the Bears at a point where they would have to draft St. Clair’s replacement amongst their top three picks in the draft. Moving Omiyale over to start or having a solid rookie there to start at RT would make me feel better than having St. Clair back.

I hear the arguments for him being back and if he comes back at the price the front-office wants him back at then fine. But there shouldn’t be ANY movement towards giving St. Clair more money if he gets a better offer from the Browns. The Bears will be able to move on from him, without question. Plus Angelo will look like a genius for letting him go in the long run because building up talented youth will be far more important than caving in to any demand St. Clair would try to make.

LG Josh Beekman came in with not a lot of expectations for 2008. Most everyone figured he would be awful so they had already resigned themselves to the fact that he wouldn’t play at a high level. Thing is those people and myself were wrong and Beekman played well for a second year pro just getting his feet wet. The good news is Beekman will only get better, and he will benefit from playing next to Kreutz for any length of time. Beekman is the heir apparent for now at center but getting him game experience is paramount to his continued development and success. There likely won’t be a lot learned at mini-camp other than developing chemistry with Chris Williams on the left side.

LT Chris Williams is already labeled a bust by some strong opinionated Bears fans for not being a Pro-Bowl starter his rookie year. The demands put on by some in the Chicagoland area both fan and media alike can be at times outrageous. Absolutely it was disappointing that a rookie drafted so highly as Williams didn’t come in and start. But the disdain and worry about Williams didn’t start with his back, it started much earlier when articles popped up about his arms being to short. A simple google search brings up articles on just the topic.

The odd thing is with all the reporting down on Willliams and his arm length no one picked up on the back problems that propped up later on in training camp. Williams states the Bears knew about it, Angelo states the Bears didn’t and the media has a field day with it . Ironically this wasn’t talked about during Williams time at the scouting combine and the media failed to pick up on it then.

So apparently Williams will be an abject failure because a) his arms are to short b) his bad back c) He was drafted by the Chicago Bears and Jerry Angelo. All of which seem preposterous on a whole new level. One thing is for sure it will be great to the Bears earning a return on their investment either way. It’s time to move beyond the short arms, beyond the back problems and focus on what Williams can do from here on out. If he performs as well as Josh Beekman did after sitting out his entire rookie season the Bears will be just fine.

Mini-camp will do a lot to clear the air surrounding both Williams and Omiyale. Chemistry development takes root at this point and that is what is most important for the Bears right now. If the starting five were in fact to be Williams, Beekman, Kreutz, Garza and Omiyale I would be quite confident in that line up being as productive or more consistent than the O-Line of 2008. Mini-camp just may be the start of where this level of play is established.

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