Chris Williams and Kevin Shaffer led a group of offensive tackles that did not impress in 2009. The Bears finished 29th and 17th in total rushing and passing yards, respectively. Jay Cutler was sacked 35 times, more than the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans allowed combined. While Shaffer only surrendered a forgivable 3.0 sacks, Williams was much less efficient, providing an opportunity for Cutler to hit the turf 8.0 times during the season. The backups, James Marten and Lance Louis, never saw the field. In fact, they have combined to appear in one career NFL game. Marten made that lone appearance, for the Oakland Raiders in 2008. Orlando Pace was brought in to help stabilize the group, but he finally showed his age and was forced to the bench after 11 games because of a groin injury.
As inadequate as the tackles often seem, the one area where they have success is controlling penalties. Shaffer does extremely well with the mental game and has committed a mere two penalties in the past two seasons. Williams tends to commit more, but he is still around average for a tackle: eight flags in two years. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider Cutler's propensity for escaping the pocket and the pressure that places on the offensive line.
A bevy of weaknesses are apparent at the tackle position. The experience level is virtually non-existent. With the exception of Shaffer, no tackle on the roster has started for more than one season. The Bears would be wise to bring in another tackle to compete for a starting assignment and push Shaffer and Williams to the next level. The lack of talent behind them is alarming, as it could breed complacency. They had the right idea with Pace. It was just too late is his career for it to be successful. Picking up a player similar to Detroit's Jon Jansen would be a huge boost to the front line.
OT Kevin Shaffer
AP Images: Nam Y. Huh
At 30 years of age, the Bears can confidently say they know what they are going to get from Shaffer. The eldest member of the Bears' tackle crew can provide consistency but will still be overpowered on occasion during the year. Of course, adding Julius Peppers takes one more dangerous defensive end from the opponent's corner. While Williams is a decent player, he is still trying to catch up after an early back injury postponed the start of his career. He is a great long-term option, but he needs a veteran presence with more ability than Shaffer to show him the way. The twosome of Marten and Louis is practice-squad fodder at best and should only be used in emergency situations. However, if left guard Frank Omiyale gets switched to right tackle, as rumors around Chicago suggest, the depth chart outside would get a needed boost.
The Bears could use quite a bit of improvement at the tackle position. Shaffer is not going to be able to keep up with the speed of the game much longer, and other than Williams, there are no players currently on the roster with a real future in the league. Adding a better tackle is the best way to improve the run game and give Cutler the protection he desperately needs.
The Bears' rank 25th overall at the offensive tackle position. They are preceded by the Washington Redskins and directly in front of the San Francisco 49ers. As for the rest of the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings are ninth, the Green Bay Packers are 14th and the Detroit Lions are 29th. The Miami Dolphins are currently No. 1.
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