2009 Position by Position Review: OL

After a disappointing 7-9 record in 2009, it's time to take a look back at the Chicago Bears and discover what went right and what went so incredibly wrong. Friday, we try to explain the offensive line.

2009 Review
An offense can talk about skill-position talent morning, noon and night, but unless the blocking up front is good enough to get the job done, it's nearly impossible to move the football consistently and put points on the scoreboard.

The Monsters of the Midway found that out the hard way this past season, as the trade for Jay Cutler at quarterback didn't open any holes for running back Matt Forte and couldn't transform tight end Greg Olsen into a Pro Bowler. General manager Jerry Angelo thought he added enough pieces in the offseason to patch an offensive line held together by bubble gum and duct tape the year before, with future Hall of Famer Orlando Pace eventually joining prior free-agent additions Frank Omiyale and Kevin Shaffer. But Pace's tank proved to be on "E" at left tackle, Omiyale didn't transition well to left guard – he was better after a midseason benching, however – and Shaffer wasn't given a chance at right tackle until the Pace experiment officially came to an end late in the schedule.

Former first-round pick Chris Williams disappointed at right tackle but played better on the left side once Pace exited, and Roberto Garza was steady if not spectacular at right guard, but center Olin Kreutz looks nothing like a Pro Bowler anymore.

Inside the Numbers
Not only were the Bears 29th in the league running the ball at 93.2 yards per game, but their 327 attempts on the season (also 29th) were less than even the notoriously pass-happy Eagles. Chicago surrendered 35 sacks (19th) and subjected its passer to 78 hits (17th), but those totals would have been higher with a statue like Kyle Orton in the pocket instead of the scrambling Cutler.


OT Chris Williams
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

Thumbs Up
Left tackle is more of a finesse position while right tackle is more of a power position, which is why a technician like Williams wasn't overly impressive on the right side but picked up the slack after switching back to the left side. Garza continues to receive little fanfare for his work at right guard, but he does his job well and is a respected presence in the locker room.

Thumbs Down
Pace was nothing short of awful at left tackle, so much so that the Bears used a minor groin injury as the perfect excuse to bench him for the final five games even though it should have only kept him out of the lineup a week or two. He gets somewhat of a pass because he had never played guard before, but Omiyale was totally lost the first half of the season and constantly picking himself up off the turf after running plays.

2010 Preview
Angelo finally paid the price for largely ignoring offensive linemen in the NFL Draft for many years, and with no picks this April before Round 3, it will be even more difficult to stockpile young talent for the future.

Blasphemous as it may sound, since he only has one year left on his contract and is inching dangerously close to liability status, it would be understandable if the Bears severed ties with Kreutz and moved failed guard Josh Beekman to center. Both tackle spots seem to be in good hands, with Williams taking over the left side and Shaffer serviceable on the right side. Don't be surprised if both Omiyale and Garza return at guard, especially if there is any movement at the center position.

The offseason is going to be odd because of uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining agreement, as Angelo doesn't have the draft-choice compensation needed if he wants to sign a premier free agent like Saints tackle Jamaal Brown or Patriots guard Logan Mankins since they may be restricted – they would only be unrestricted if the owners and players can agree on a new CBA before March.


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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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