Chicago Sun-Times

Sizing up the right tackle situation and where Omiyale fits in

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Deep into the second wave of free agency, the old and sometimes broken down offensive tackles on the open market are starting to get some action.

On the heels of John St. Clair's signing Tuesday in Cleveland where he received a $600,000 signing bonus as part of a $9 million, three-year contract, there is some movement. Former St. Louis Rams all-pro Orlando Pace will visit with the Baltimore Ravens today. On the other coast, Marvel Smith, who represented the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Pro Bowl, will visit the San Francisco 49ers.

The Bears, meanwhile, will line up Cody Balogh at right tackle this afternoon in minicamp practice No. 2 unless the Frank Omiyale-to-left-guard plan is a thing of the past after one day. Take a deep breath for a moment. The regular season does not begin for six months. As we wrote the other day, Lovie Smith could race over to Lake Forest College and grab a lineman to put at right tackle for three days in a non-contact minicamp. The Bears have options and while none of them scream Keith Van Horne or Big Cat Williams, not now any way, let's be honest here. Re-signing St. Clair and lining him up at right tackle wasn't a longterm solution. The Bears are working to get younger (and maybe bigger) on the line. Re-signing St. Clair probably would not have altered or delayed a goal to draft a tackle next month. The Bears valued St. Clair as a backup and that was reflected in the offer they made him.

So, in their quest to get younger, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand will hit the road next week to work out Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt and Arizona's Eben Britton. Maybe he has some other stops planned, but there are none we know of to this point. If Pace and Marvel Smith sign, that is going to eliminate a couple options right there. But the market is going to remain fluid. If Pace lands in Baltimore, that means Willie Anderson could potentially be cut loose. The Niners could launch Jones Jennings whether they land Marvel Smith or not.

Anderson, Jennings and Levi Jones, who should get sprung from Cleveland, all have issues. We ran down a list of possibilities right here earlier in the week.

It struck at least this observer as silly Tuesday that Omiyale was lining up with the second team. Who are they kidding here?

"I don't know much about him but he looks like a hell of a player,'' center Olin Kreutz offered after the first practice.

The Bears didn't spring out of the blocks into free agency to sign Omiyale and have him replace Terrence Metcalf as the resident backup for the foreseeable future. Omiyale is going to pull down $6.3 million this season in his $11.5 million, four-year deal that can max out at $14 million. He was signed with an eye toward him being a starter so why not put him with the first team?

"It is a great opportunity, coming in and having some spots that need to be filled,'' Omiyale said. "It's just a good opportunity and try to show my athleticism and let the coaches make the decisions where I'm best fitted."

The plan--at least with St. Clair on board--was for Omiyale to work at left guard along with Josh Beekman. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner explained that Roberto Garza and Dan Buenning would compete at right guard.

Omiyale doesn't seem to have a preference but is clearly more experienced at tackle. Working at just one position for now will help him learn the scheme.

"Right now, just until I get the offense down and get all the lingo because coach Hiestand was already talking about learning the whole picture, not one position,'' Omiyale said. "I think just getting [comfortable] at first and then if they need me to move around I'll be able to do that anytime."

Anytime could be beckoning. We'll see at practice this afternoon.

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11 Comments

I, for one, am glad St.Clair is gone for the reason Brad says. We need to get younger! We'll be fine on the O line. Forte has a way of making everyone look better. We'll see what cream filled LaClair does in Cleveland with no RB. I'm glad the Bears didn't give him what the Browns did. I say OT with first pick and Brian Robiske with 2nd pick. Or better yet, Jay Cutler with first pick!

Not sure how I feel about this. Omiyale is probably our best option on the roster to play RT, but at the same time, if we draft a Britton or Loadholt early in the draft, then we have to move him again. And just once, I would really be happy if we didn't have to jerk someone around on the team. Put them where you want them, and leave them there. Beekman is getting pushed aside in the process, but if he is good enough, he could factor into the equation again.
Here's an odd thought...What if Beekman outplays Omiyale early and into training camp and wins the job? Where do you put Omiyale at that point? Does he become your swing tackle? If you have already drafted Britton or Loadholt, is he just insurance at that point? I don't think Beekman will win the job, or at least won't get the chance to from the coaching staff, but it is something to consider.

But this should tell us that Jerry is planning on drafting the starting RT this year, and early at that. I am surprised that Buenning is getting work as the backup center, rather than Beekman. I would much rather have Buenning focus on guard, where he should be able to beat out Garza. Beekman should be our swing interior lineman. But it is nice to know that in a pinch, Beekman, Garza, and Buenning can all play both side guards and center. SHould give us more flexibility on game day as far as roster spots. I would rather not go into the season with all of them, but Garza is the only one I don't think is capable of being a solid contributor.

This is GREAT news!

The Bears have needed to bring in new blood on the OL for a long time. At this point, the question is whether they are moving to more of a zone blocking (finese) style, or a power straight ahead system.

If the Bears are moving towards a zone system keep an eye on William Beatty in the 1st rd. If they want to get bigger and drive block watch Britten. I'm hoping they look for OL in the 1st and 3rd rds. All the OG research is 3rd rd territory.

With St.Clair gone now, it might be a good idea to put Omiyale at tackle now for a couple reasons. First, Omiyale is more comfortable at tackle, it would make more sense to put him at a position he knows while he learns the Bears scheme. Secondly, depth wise, the Bears already have Josh Beekman at left guard, he's young and should only continue to get better, especially with a year as a starter under his belt. Also, the Bears have Roberto Garza and Dan Buenning who both have NFL experience at guard, which Omiyale doesn't. Omiyale has experience at tackle, I think he'd be a better fit there. I say put him at right tackle and let him compete with a draft pick [maybe Eben Britton]. If nothing else, Omiyale could hold the position down for a season, this one, the one where he is making the bulk of his money, and then either compete at guard or be the Bears swing tackle next season. Believe it or not, swing tackle is also an important position, we'll see how it all plays out GO BEARS!!

I think they leave Omiyale at LG with them knowing someone else will be playing RT. They will definitly have a 1st or 2nd rounder there and still have options in FAgceny. I think the game plan is to leave Omiyale on the left side. If Willias fails he slides into the LT spot for the next 4 years. How smart would it be to move him to RT and draft or bring a guy in and and move him back to the left side again. They are doing the right thing, we as fans are just nevrous because were just not that smart.

"And just once, I would really be happy if we didn't have to jerk someone around on the team. Put them where you want them, and leave them there. Beekman is getting pushed aside in the process, but if he is good enough, he could factor into the equation again.
Here's an odd thought...What if Beekman outplays Omiyale early and into training camp and wins the job? Where do you put Omiyale at that point? Does he become your swing tackle? If you have already drafted Britton or Loadholt, is he just insurance at that point? I don't think Beekman will win the job, or at least won't get the chance to from the coaching staff, but it is something to consider."

What I believe we will see is that Omiyale will be the LG opening day. Beekman will be relegated to reserve duty but only for the 2009 season. Olin Kruetz will be playing his final season as a Bear and will be released in the off-season so that Beekman can assume the role as Center for the forseeable future. I believe that the same thing will happen to Roberto Garza. If he makes it through pre-season he will be the starting RG for his swawn song this year as well. I think Buenning could beat him out at RG and Garza would then be a camp cut casualty prior to the season opener.

The nice thing is that Beekman and Buenning have worked at Center, Beekman his rookie season and Buenning with Tampa and last season with the Bears so they have already been grooming Kruetz's replacement for some time now.

2010 you will see a completely rebuilt and relatively young O-line that could remain intact for a very long time....


Go Bears !!

I'm all for the Bears getting younger and bigger on the O-line. If you get a good young line you will set the foundation for a good team for years to come. With all the money on the defense side of the ball the Bears need to put their available resources on the offense and let the defense stand on their own. While I think no one will deny that the line played much better than expected last year the truth is the expectaions of them were very low, and Forte made them look better than they made Forte look. After watching the teams in the playoffs last year I was envious of teams like the Giants, Titans, Chargers and Steelers to control the line of scrimmage and that in my opinion is where the Bears need to focus first. Forget giving up a ton of picks for Cutler, lets see what Orton does for another year and if we do end up having to get a young QB down the road at least we won't have to worry about him getting his brains beat in. Angelo put together a nice line with acquisitions of Brown, Garza , and Miller and it was the step needed to get to a Super Bowl. Now its time to retool.
Bear Down!

Hiestand is going to love Britton, he likes smart football players and Britton is that. Britton is a young Tait with better size. Actually I think he will be better that Tait was in his prime. It's game over as soon as Hiestand works him out. That is of course if he does not get drafted before 18.

This years line could look like this
Williams
Omiyale
Kruetz
Lang
Britton

Backups, Buenning, Garza, Miller, and a draft pick
Beekman is released on the fact that he sucks.Next year draft a Center.

Agree with what you say Rich except I am wondering why he did not retool the line the last 3 years and we could have went back to the playoffs already, Everyone, Everyone, saw the Bears Oline declining due to age, but Jerry did nothing. Why is that? If you were envious of those teams didn't you ask yourself why Jerry let the team/city/fans down by not retooling that line before it collapsed?

I am not down on Beekman at all, I felt he did a pretty good job considering it was his first year, and Garza should be gone this year, it was Garza/Tait that let down the line (and yes Olin), but everyone saw these exact same players getting old the last 2 years (and I am assuming someone had to know St. Clairs contract was going to expire-again no action) and we as fans were begging Jerry to upgrade the last 2 years but nooooo, what we hear is the QB is his Achilles heel? He was laying blame on the area that he/Lovie JUST had a competition at for our starting QB for years to come, and there he is laying blame on the one position that they were so comfortable with they had a competition for starter? There was alot wrong with that statement by Jerry, as he was trying to deflect criticism on his free agent/drafts...why? because he knew he did nothing to upgrade the offense and he was deflecting criticism that he had no answers for. Like we are all stupid.

I would draft Loadholt at 18 if Briton/Oher are gone, wth if Briton is gone we can trade down for Loadholt but we better be da.. sure he will be there later, so I would go ahead and draft Loadholt at 18. maybe a reach on some boards but we want him so why wait unless we can trade down knowing he will be there. (would you rather miss both)
(personnaly I would trade up for Oher but that is not the Jerry way as you know)
I do not see us drafting 2 Olinemen that high as I feel Omiyale was picked up for a starter role, so we could address the WR/FS positions (and don't forget Jerry HAS to draft defense with 2 of those first 3 picks!- it's the Jerry way)lol
No matter what you think of Beekman - I don't see Lovie/Jerry trying to fix that position again, they will sink or swim with what they have already invested in, as they have done with the aging Oline up till now.

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/mock - These guys think we're all wrong though...

Williams
Beekman
Kruetz
Garza/Omiyale
Omiyale/Britton

Read my draft analysis with a grain of salt though as I quit trying to predict the Bears drafts a long time ago, as they never drafted who anyone thought they would. - V. Wilfork etc...

That said, I would really want Jerry to trade up for once in his draft history (just once Jerry)and grab us Oher for our RT so we can have the possibility of a VanHorne/Covert again.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on March 18, 2009 7:53 AM.

Another lineman pops up on the Bears' workout radar was the previous entry in this blog.

Bears to take a closer look at another wide receiver is the next entry in this blog.

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