Once Orlando Pace came up lame with a groin injury late in the year, which allowed former first-round pick Chris Williams to move over from right tackle to left tackle, the Chicago offensive line finally started to resemble a respectable quintet.
Kevin Shaffer came off the bench to replace Williams at right tackle, and since the Bears won their final two games and did so in fairly impressive fashion, perhaps a Williams-Shaffer bookend combination up front was the way to go for 2010. But that may not be the case, as rumors are circling in the Windy City that much-maligned left guard Frank Omiyale could be switched back to his original position and play right tackle next season. If that does indeed happen, Shaffer would likely return to his role as a reserve, capable of filling in at either tackle spot in a pinch.
Regardless of what occurs with Omiyale and Shaffer during the offseason program, the Midway Monsters need to bolster their depth in the trenches with fresh bodies.
Scout.com senior NFL analyst Ed Thompson has learned through a credible source that Cincinnati offensive tackle Jeff Linkenbach is scheduled for a pre-draft visit with the Bears on Apr. 5 at Halas Hall.
After redshirting as a freshman out of Margaretta High School in Sandusky, Ohio, Linkenbach was a four-year starter for the Bearcats, primarily at left tackle. Also a tremendous student, earning both Topcat Scholar and Academic Honor Roll selections, he was Cincinnati's Offensive Newcomer of the Year and named to The Sporting News' Big East All-Freshman team in 2006. Although he battled a nagging leg injury most of his sophomore season, Linkenbach anchored the line as a junior and senior for one of the most potent offenses in the country, earning UC all-decade-team honors from Yahoo! Sports.
The 6-6, 313-pound Linkenbach right now is not listed among Scout.com's top 30 offensive tackle prospects leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft.
JC's Take: As the Bears tend to do, Linkenbach is being brought in for a pre-draft visit for the purpose of taking a physical since he did not get an invite to this week's Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
With Pace not expected to return, Chicago is thin at offensive tackle and needs to find some young talent to develop for down the road. Even if Omiyale flip-flops from guard to tackle and Shaffer gets pushed back to the bench, the only tackles behind him on the depth chart are James Marten and Lance Louis. Marten has been little more than a practice squader during his career, and Louis was playing tight end at San Diego State not too long ago.
Because Linkenbach isn't on many team's draft boards right now, his is a name to remember for the seventh round this April.
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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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