Chicago Sun-Times

Eastern Michigan OT Lang visited Bears Thursday

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On the day the Bears solidified their starting offensive line--at least for 2009--by signing seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace, they looked under the hood on a draft prospect.

Eastern Michigan offensive lineman T.J. Lang made his official visit to Halas Hall on Thursday.

He's fast climbing draft boards and it will be interesting to see how general manager Jerry Angelo addresses the need to find a young offensive tackle. He doesn't own a first-round pick this year after the Jay Cutler trade but it's not like he can wait to grab one in the first round next year. The Bears had to deal away their first-round selection in 2010.

At some point, Angelo is going to need to pull the trigger on a young lineman but also consider the Bears are virtually locked in to selecting a wide receiver in the second round at No. 49 overall. Also, if they want to make a run at Alabama safety Rashad Johnson, who Angelo is known to like, they are going to have to cross their fingers and hope he falls to the end of the third round where the Bears have the compensatory pick at No. 99 overall. That might not happen.

But back to Lang. He is an interesting guy who played left tackle in school but projects on the right side or possibly inside at guard. The Bears took a real liking to him at the Texas vs. The Nation all-star game but so did a lot of other teams and he has a full dance card with visits also completed or scheduled with Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Green Bay, Jacksonville and San Diego.

The big question is where does Angelo make a play for a tackle? In Round 3 or early in the draft next year? It would be wishful thinking to wait deep into the second day of the draft and grab a tackle with the thinking in mind he can be developed. Those are longshots. Pace isn't going to play long enough--he signed for three years and the deal $15 million deal is structured where he receives $11 million in the first two years--for the Bears to roll the dice on longshots. Something has to give to get Cutler, right?

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Jerry Angelo made a great move in trading for Jay Cutler, especially since the Bears haven't done too well in the first round for the past decade. But, why acquire another left tackle in Orland Pace? Pace has injury issues and he seems to be past his prime as a left tackle. And, wasn't the reason the Bears drafted Chris Williams was because he was touted as a 'finesse' and 'proto-type' left tackle of the future? Is the reason for the Pace signing a sign the Bears have reservations about Williams?

I suggest keeping Williams at left tackle, if he's healthy, and have Pace play the right tackle spot. This way the Bears can develop their left tackle spot for the next 6-8 years and have a 'veteran' dominant run blocker and 'above-average' pass blocker at the right tackle. In addition why sign Kevin Shaffer to a nice contract if he's going to be the swing tackle with Cody Balogh the ''in waiting' tackle on the practice squad? Is this another sign the Bears aren't fully behind Williams?

Also, why does it seem Roberto Garza is being handed the right guard spot? Garza was a nice free agent find a few years ago, but, for the Bears line to improve he must play above average. And, Garza hasn't done that consistently. I believe Josh Beekman, Dan Buenning, and Frank Omiyale should all be given a legitiment shot at both guard spots with the 'default guards' used as backups for the other line spots.

Every time we talk about someone rocketing up the draft boards, we always expect more of a rise than what actually occurs. After the fiascos of the early 90s with workout warriors, teams are a lot less inclined to bounce a guy more than a round above where they have him. So if TJ Lang was a 5th round or 6th round prospect, he probably doesn't get any higher than the 4th round. That still puts him in our range to select.

If we go WR and FS in round2 and 3, I think we can get some pretty solid players to help contribute this year.

WRs available at 49 could vary wildly depending on how quickly the 3rd and 4th WRs come off the board. If it is like last year, where nobody is taking wideouts early, then we could see a pretty deep group at 49. Crabtree is going in round 1 for certain, but who else? Maclin, DHB, Nicks, Harvin, and Britt all have the potential to go in round 1, or none of them could go in 1. Likely it will be somewhere in the middle, with Harvin, Maclin, and Britt or Nicks going in 1, and DHB and the odd man out of Britt or Nicks dropping out of the first round. Robiskie is the cream of the second group, but if we have to take Johnson in 2 (perhaps a trade back from 49 to 55 to take him?), then we have to look at guys like:

Austin Collie
Ramses Barden
Louis Murphy

That may not be ideal, but we need the safety badly, as there is nothing on the free agent market other than converting Lucas to the position. I am starting to wonder if Bowman is going to be the dark horse because of his speed and athleticism in going after the ball. It would not surprise me, and Gil Byrd is pretty solid as a position coach. Maybe he can turn Manning or Bowman into a solid safety.

Safeties that seem interesting to me:

Chip Vaughn

There are probably others, but I am not as familiar with them yet. Time for me to do my homework on safeties.

I think the idea of moving back at 49 to the 60 range nets us a late third according to the value chart, so maybe that is the way to look at this as far as making sure we get someone at both positions. I do wonder if Jerry needed to give up the third rounder this year, but what's done is done. By getting an extra third, we still can get 3 guys out of the first three rounds, and that could be a nice boost, since that is where Jerry has had the most success. The good thing is that the line is pretty solid now with the additions of Pace, Shaffer, and Omiyale, especially considering that Williams is essentially a new addition this year. We should be able to run the ball and throw more effectively.

What concerns me most is the defensive line with this shifted focus. We still need at least one DT, and probably need an upgrade at DE. Our line needs to generate pressure without blitzing, so we can stop the run, and especially defend the slant. If they are as poor at getting to the QB as we were in 2008, then we are in real trouble regardless of who is playing safety, LB, and CB. Maybe the trade back in the second will net us an extra third, and we can get a DE, WR, and FS out of the second and third rounds. Also, if I am Jerry, and I am in a gambling mood, I offer up more picks from next year to get the guy I want this year. Either way, this is a critical draft for Jerry, and he already has a good start in getting his FRANCHISE QUARTERBACK for his first and third round picks. Now he has to get productive picks out of the rest of the group.

Joe Nicks will be there in round 2.

List of Top recievers:

Thats 7 recievers Joe. In 2006 4 recievers were drafted in the first 2 rounds, in 2007 7 recievers went in the first rounds, in 2008 10 WR were drafted all in the second round. WR does not hold as much positional value as it used to. Look for a lot of WR to fall to the second round. Eddie Royal was a second round pick and Cutler helped him break into the league with 980, 91 and 5. I am sure who ever the Bears get in round 2 will be helped by Cutler. No matter what happens the Brears need to get 2 starters with the 2nd and 3rd picks. Look for Martin in round 3 at FS if not him, Pegues.

2nd through 5th
Brandon Long and Jason Watkins

In normal years, I might agree with you, but with players like Raji potentially dropping for testing positive, and also the latest rumor about Cushing and Matthews Jr testing positive for roids, there will be a shift to another position, which could trigger a run. It will either be WR or OT, and I would lean towards OT, but it is possible that things could start with one domino. By my estimation these are the teams that could draft a WR early (before our pick:
Round 1:
Round 2:
St. Louis

That's an awful lot of possibilities, and could exhaust your 7 WRs if someone jumps on a guy early, such as Maclin in the top 15. Don't disagree with the logic of WR being devalued overall, but could see that changing this year if a few things happen.

referencing the comments on the o line,i believe we're in good shape. williams is better suited to rt,pace at lt awesome, sure they still need to draft for future but lets keep jay upright until we have a young man ready to protect jays blind side.garza,blue collar workman type with good strength a good base and all around good team player.i think our line is better than the one that brought home the superbowl last year,go bears!!!!

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on April 3, 2009 8:38 AM.

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