Once general manager Jerry Angelo amended his thought process with regard to offensive linemen, preferring tackles that can also play guard as opposed to guards that can also play center, Josh Beekman was officially put on notice.
A fourth-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Beekman played both guard and center at Boston College and was considered a quality prospect because of his versatility along the interior. After biding his time behind nine-time Pro Bowler Ruben Brown as a rookie, Beekman earned the starting gig in 2008 at left guard and appeared to do a commendable job for 16 games – common wisdom suggested he would only improve, too. However, Angelo signed career backup tackle Frank Omiyale to a four-year, $14 million contract the following offseason, and even though Beekman still looked to be the better blocker throughout training camp, it was Omiyale emerging as the starter between center Olin Kreutz and left tackle Orlando Pace.
The Bears are reportedly toying with the idea of switching Omiyale back to tackle, which would leave an opening at left guard. But instead of Beekman moving back to the top of the depth chart at his former spot, the coaching staff seems hesitant to do that and is exploring other options.
According to a source familiar with the situation, the Bears are one of six teams that have shown the "most interest" in Colorado State guard Shelley Smith.
A preseason all-conference selection, Smith injured his ankle before the opener and missed the first three games of his senior year, but he recovered and was an honorable mention All-Mountain West selection – he had been a second-team honoree as a junior. A participant in the East-West Shrine Game and invited to the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, he was clearly the Rams' most talented lineman because of his sound footwork and ability to make clean blocks out in space. But in order to be effective at the next level, he's going to have to get stronger and hold his position better at the point of attack.
The 6-3, 300-pound Smith is currently the No. 10 guard available for the 2010 NFL Draft according to the very latest Scout.com rankings.
JC's Take: If the Bears plan to address other positions earlier in the draft, particularly free safety and anywhere along the defensive line, Smith is a name to remember when Angelo and Co. are on the clock in Round 5 or 6.
Although Smith doesn't appear ready to contribute as a rookie, he has the attributes a man-on-man blocking team like Chicago looks for at left guard. Since most offenses are right-handed, especially when it comes to running the ball, the left guard does the majority of the pulling and, therefore, needs to be a superior athlete to the right guard. That's why the Midway Monsters featured a better ground attack when Brown was in the lineup, and also why Matt Forte had so much trouble breaking off long runs behind Omiyale – he was especially ineffective when asked to pull.
With the Bears doing their best to trade defensive end Alex Brown to Seattle for guard Rob Sims over the weekend, it's fair to assume that Beekman's future in the Windy City is at center, and center alone.
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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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