Olin Kreutz leads the Bears' seasoned group of guards and centers. Kreutz is a six-time Pro Bowler who has been a rock on the offensive line for the past decade. Roberto Garza is another quality veteran who has started every game for the Bears since 2006. Frank Omiyale rounds out the starters and has played adequately after signing a $14 million dollar deal in 2009. While a veteran presence has certainly helped the squad, their lack of push on the front line has hindered the run game. Kreutz is their best player, but his success is now three years removed from his last Pro Bowl appearance. Josh Beekman has also been in the mix, but after not living up to franchise expectations at guard, he may be nothing more than the heir apparent at center behind Kreutz.
Experience is the key component of this crew. Kreutz and Garza have played every game since 2006, and even Beekman has a full season of starting under his belt. Combined, Kreutz and Garza have started 269 games. That is a wealth of experience on the front line. Omilaye and Beekman are the least seasoned of the guards and centers, but even though they are both under the age of 27, they have each played in at least 25 games.
Recently, it has become evident across the league that Kreutz is not the player he once was. Defenses are not paying him as much respect. The price of experience is aging, and Kreutz is certainly in the twilight of his career. Beekman was rumored to be in line to move into the starting role. Lately, that has been anything but a given. Bears management has been reportedly eyeing Colorado State standout Shelley Smith, and Arizona State product Shawn Lauvao is also on their radar. If the Bears decide to draft another guard, it may be curtains for the underachieving Beekman.
G Roberto Garza
AP Images: David J. Phillip
The advanced age of Kreutz and the lack of young star power on the front line point to the limited potential with this group of players. Omilaye is a career backup, Garza is down to his last few seasons and Kreutz is edging near the end of the line. Drafting another guard would be a huge step toward restocking a fading collection of guards and centers. Picking up a behemoth blocker like 6-6, 312-pound Mike Johnson from Alabama would have an immediate impact on their potential.
The Bears need to acquire another offensive lineman in order to regain their ability to consistently run the football. Matt Forte is a talented running back, but without a decent push up the middle, his ability will be wasted. Kreutz is slowly fading, but he should still be at least a serviceable option in 2010, which is the last year of his contract. Omilaye and Garza could be easily upgraded by adding a rookie or a more talented veteran, plus be on the lookout for Omiyale potentially kicking out to right tackle.
The Bears' rank 23rd overall at the guard and center positions. They are preceded by the Arizona Cardinals and directly in front of the Cleveland Browns. As for the rest of the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings are eighth, the Green Bay Packers are 16th and the Detroit Lions are 25th. The New Orleans Saints are currently No. 1.
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