Not Enough Talent on Offensive Line

Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has largely ignored the offensive line in the NFL Draft, having selected only one big ugly in the first three rounds going all the way back to 2003.

It's too bad the Bears' offense is such a disaster, because the defense is playing well enough to lead a team with even an average offense into the playoffs.

Come to think of it, if the Bears strived for average on offense they'd be better off, because then coordinator Mike Martz wouldn't be force-feeding a steady diet of passing plays down the throat of an offensive line that is at a competitive disadvantage against most NFL defensive lines when it come to pass protection.

The offensive line has largely been ignored in the draft for eight years. That group represents nearly one-fifth of a team's starting lineup, but Bears general manager Jerry Angelo seems to believe that talent isn't as necessary on the offensive line as it is at the other positions.

"It's not about getting great players. It's about getting the same five players playing well together," Angelo said on WBBM-AM during the team's flagship pregame show last Sunday. "When you lose a player, or players in our case, it makes it tough on the other guys because one player affects the other four."

Angelo makes a valid point that the Bears' offensive line has been hindered by injuries, which prolongs the jelling process necessary for effective offensive line play.

After starting the first two games at left tackle, Chris Williams missed almost four full games with a hamstring injury and then was re-inserted at left guard, taking over for Roberto Garza, who missed the past two games following arthroscopic knee surgery. A knee injury knocked right guard Lance Louis out of the lineup after four starts.

Williams' injury led to Frank Omiyale's move from right tackle to left, with veteran backup Kevin Shaffer taking over for two games at right tackle. But coaches decided seventh-round rookie J'Marcus Webb was a better alternative. Louis' injury ushered Edwin Williams into the starting lineup.

But the bigger problem, the one which no one at Halas Hall wants to acknowledge, is that none of the players who have been shuffled in and out and back and forth are difference makers.

There's a reason Webb lasted until the seventh round, Louis lasted until the seventh round last year and Edwin Williams was available as a street free agent after being cut by the Redskins: No one else thought they were very good.

The Bears have been forced to replace mediocre-to-average players with other mediocre-to-average players on the line, because they have ignored the foundation on which the offense is built for eight years.

Williams is the only offensive lineman the Bears have drafted in the first round in eight years, and the coaching staff doesn't even believe he's the team's best left tackle anymore. Williams is the only offensive lineman the Bears have taken in the first three rounds of the last eight drafts. They used a fourth rounder to take Josh Beekman in 2007, but he was cut Sept. 4, and they took Tyler Reed in the sixth round in '06.

So with a total of 68 draft picks since 2003, the Bears have selected just nine offensive linemen, and six of them were taken in the seventh and final round. That's why they can't protect the quarterback.

You'd think Martz would have realized that by now.


RB Matt Forte
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

PERSONNEL NOTES
QB Jay Cutler's 45.5 third-down passer rating is the worst of the 29 players who have enough attempts to qualify for the NFL's rankings. In his Bears career, Cutler has 34 TD passes and 33 interceptions after he was picked off four times last week. ...

RB Matt Forte averaged 4.1 yards per carry last week, just the second time he's been over 4.0 in seven games this season. But he got just 10 carries last week, although he leads the Bears with six touchdowns and is averaging 12.9 yards per catch on a team-best 21 receptions. ...

RB Chester Taylor had back-to-back carries for 12 yards midway through the third quarter last week but did not carry the ball again and finished with 20 yards on three carries. ...

TE Greg Olsen had three catches for 43 yards, including an impressive, contested 23-yard reception, after he had been shut out in the previous two weeks. ...

WR Devin Hester was targeted eight times and caught five passes but managed just 30 yards, as he twice failed to elude a single defender in the open field. He was allowed to field just one of seven punts and picked up 12 yards. ...

WR Johnny Knox tied his career best with six catches, which were good for 86 yards. His 478 receiving yards are a Bears best and rank fourth in the NFC. His 19.9-yard average per catch is tops in the NFC among players with 20 receptions. ...

WR Earl Bennett had a 48-yard reception among his four catches for 76 yards and is now third on the team with 20 catches. ...

LB Lance Briggs lasted just one series last week on the sprained ankle that kept him out in Week 6, but he is expected back after this week's bye. ...

DE Israel Idonije added another sack last week to his team-best total of 4.5, and he also forced a fumble and had two passes defensed. ...

CB Charles Tillman bounced back from a subpar outing against Seattle's Mike Williams to lead the Bears with eight tackles against the Redskins while forcing two fumbles, one of which he recovered.


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