Smith’s Comments Lead to Speculation about the Look of the Bears Offensive Line in 2011

Dan Pompei summarized Bears head coach Lovie Smith‘s comments on the plan for the offensive line this coming year for the Chicago Tribune:

“He said he has an idea of how he would like the offensive line to set up, but how it shakes out is dependent on additions. Smith said he believes [J'MarcusWebb, who played right tackle as a rookie, has the physical ability to play left tackle. He was noncommittal about where Chris Williams would play, but he would like the former first-round pick, who has played three positions, to lock into one.”

This isn’t much to go on but its March.  That makes it speculation season.  If Smith really likes Webb at left tackle then the situation on the outside becomes a bit clearer and we might be able to make some guesses about what’s going to happen here.

The Bears will likely have a guard available to them in the draft.  Guards tend to be undervalued in the top rounds because teams still figure they can pick them up later.  In the first round they’d probably ideally Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey to fall to them.  Baylor guard Danny Watkins is more likely to be there and he’s a good possibility.

If the Bears take an interior lineman they probably either put him at center (Pouncey) or put him at guard to compete.  Sadly, this may mean letting center Olin Kreutz leave via free agency, particularly if Pouncey is their guy.  If a really good offensive tackle were to fall to them (unlikely) then Kreutz stays.  But an interior offensive lineman might spell the end for him with the Bears.

This would be a blow as Kreutz is a leader who brings an attitude which the team reflects.  But Kreutz’s play has been deteriorating and he’s never been good at handling big men over center.  The Bears have had to make adjustments in the way the line plays, often pulling him, to accommodate his deficiencies.  I’m afraid his days with the team have been numbered for a few years now.

This leaves us to speculate about Chris Williams.  The fact that the Bears haven’t settled on a position for him probably means its going to depend upon who they draft.  If the Bears draft a tackle, he probably competes at guard.  If its an interior lineman then he’s at right tackle.  Probably they would prefer the latter with Frank Omiyale also competing to start at tackle on either side.

Let’s assume that the Bears pick up an interior lineman.  We are left with:

Webb, Williams, Omiyale competing at tackle
Lance Louis, Edwin WilliamsRoberto Garza/possible draftee competing at guard
Garza/possible draftee at center

If its a tackle we have:

Webb, Omiyale, draftee competing at tackle
C. Williams, Louis, E. Williams, Garza competing at guard
Kreutz or Garza at center

If the draft doesn’t yield a good offensive lineman somewhere at the top of the draft then the Bears sign at least one (hopefully high quality) free agent and the above situations still apply.  Indeed, they may do that regardless of who they draft.

Still not very specific but a plan and there are certainly potential variations but, nevertheless, something similar to this leaves the team flexible with numerous possibilities to keep in the back of our heads going into the NFL draft.

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