We have received questions throughout the offseason about the status of right guard Roberto Garza. The latest comes from Alan T. in Chicago:
"If Josh Beekman and Frank Omiyale are in competition for the left guard job, what's going on at right guard? Is anyone pushing Roberto Garza for his job?''
Maybe we can shed some light on this issue. Besides Omiyale's brief appearance at right tackle in March when the coaching staff didn't have enough offensive linemen to run a full minicamp (talk about a scheduling snafu), he's been used strictly at left guard from everything we've seen.
Recently, Beekman and Omiyale have started splitting time at left guard although no decision is imminent on that position. Most expect Omiyale to win that spot, and his contract would certainly indicate the Bears believe he will be in the lineup. Omiyale is getting more than half of the $11.5 million base value in his four-year contract this season.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said in March that Dan Buenning, acquired via trade from Tampa Bay at the start of last season, could compete with Garza at right guard. We have not seen Buenning with the first team in drills to this point. That doesn't mean it hasn't happened, but we haven't seen it. Turner emphasized the coaching staff was happy with Garza's performance.
It's difficult to judge individual offensive line play with statistics, but here are some interesting numbers we've looked at courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau. They seem to support Garza.
By Play Direction
Right side 102 carries, 405 yards, 4.0 average
Left side 95 carries, 314 yards, 3.3 average
Middle 60 carries, 286 yards, 4.8 average
According to those numbers, the Bears were more successful running up the middle and to the right than going left. Does that mean Garza was more effective than Beekman? Again, it's difficult to study an individual lineman based on rushing numbers. A case could be made that reports of Garza's demise have been exaggerated. He's made 48 consecutive starts, exceeded on the line by only center Olin Kreutz.
Buenning made 23 starts in three seasons with Tampa Bay, including all 16 as a rookie in 2005. He's entering the final year of his contract and also has experience working as a reserve center.
The short of it is it looks like Garza remains entrenched at right guard. Judging by Forte's statistics from last season, it just might be the right move. We'll surely learn more in training camp.