Finding a Place for Williams

The Sports Xchange picks up the Chris Williams debate anew. Should Chicago's coaches play him at tackle or guard next season? The outcome of the draft may make that decision for them.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo drafted Chris Williams in the first round (14th overall) in 2008 with the idea that he'd be the team's left tackle for the next decade or so.

Williams started the first two games there last season but was hurt and replaced and wound up starting the last 11 games at left guard. Now, the question is: Does Williams deserves another shot at left tackle or will he remain a starter at left guard?

Either way, the Bears need help on the offensive line, and determining Williams' future will help Angelo pinpoint offensive linemen in the draft.

"I really don't care where we have Chris, personally," Angelo said. "I want to make sure that when everything plays itself it out, after we get through this period of allocating players, that we get the five best players on the field."

Offensive line coach Mike Tice spent a good portion of last season trying to figure that out. After he did, the Bears' front wall showed improvement but still was never better than mediocre. Additional young talent remains a must.

T/G Chris Williams
Scott Boehm/Getty

Jay Cutler was sacked 52 times in 15 games last season, more than anyone in the NFL. Center Olin Kreutz will be 34 before training camp begins and right guard Roberto Garza turns 32 this week. They can't go on forever. There is some youth on the roster, but Williams and right tackle J'Marcus Webb are already starting. None of the current backups appear to be starter material and none of the starters are indispensable.

Left tackle Frank Omiyale got better over the course of the season, but there is still much room for improvement, and he might be better suited at right tackle.

It's also possible the Bears will decide Williams' fate after they make their first pick, No. 29 overall, depending on whom they take. After an injury-marred rookie season, Williams started the first 11 games in 2009 at right tackle and transitioned to left tackle for the final five games.

That's where he started the first two games last season. But a hamstring injury sidelined him for three games and necessitated the move of Omiyale from right tackle to left. Williams was plugged in at left guard when he returned and started the final 11 games there with mixed results.

"We have a few options, a few directions we can go," coach Lovie Smith said. "Chris has played both tackle positions and guard for us. We don't have to make those decisions right now. We just know that Chris is a part of our future, and once we lock him into a position -- maybe the one he's in right now -- I'm anxious to see exactly where we end up playing him."

If the Bears still believe Williams has a future at left guard, they can target a tackle or an eventual replacement for Kreutz. The 13-year veteran is eligible for free agency, but the Bears are expected to re-sign him for another year or two.

Florida center-guard Mike Pouncey and Colorado tackle Nate Solder have been mentioned as possibilities for the Bears, but it's doubtful either will be available near the end of the round. Danny Watkins, who played left tackle at Baylor but projects to guard in the NFL, might be a more realistic prediction, and Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod and Miami tackle-guard Orlando Franklin are other considerations.

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