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Chris Williams was told on Wednesday he will be the starting left tackle on Sunday.

Apparently no one has said anything to Kevin Shaffer, but he is the man who is expected to line up at right tackle Sunday against the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field as Orlando Pace will be sidelined for a little while with a groin muscle injury.

"If that's the case it's something I've been working for all year, starting with training camp and everything and right tackle's my position, I've been at for the last couple years, so that'd be great,'' Shaffer said. "I don't know what the situation is, I really don't. I know today I practiced with the ones, but what it is in the future I don't know.''

The Bears essentially swapped John St. Clair to the Cleveland Browns in free agency for Shaffer, who was released after he refused a pay cut. He had started 79 of the last 80 regular-season games for the Browns and Atlanta Falcons before arriving, and played the last two seasons in Cleveland as the right tackle. Before Pace was signed, it looked like the Bears would line up Shaffer at right tackle and Williams at left tackle.

Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye returned to the practice squad this afternoon, maybe with an eye on being able to face ex-Bear John St. Clair on Sunday at Soldier Field.

The Bears and Cleveland Browns essentially flipped offensive tackles when Cleveland signed St. Clair in free agency, and the Bears turned around and picked up Shaffer after he was cut loose. St. Clair is starting at right tackle for the Browns, where Ogunleye often faced him in training camp and in the offseason.

"It's going to be fun going against him,'' Ogunleye said. "I'm just going to say that he tries hard. He's the kind of guy that goes in every game and busts his ass, excuse me, busts his tail. He's the kind of guy that you want on your team, so he's a good guy."

Ogunleye had two sacks in the opener vs. Green Bay's Allen Barbre and 2 1/2 a month ago against Detroit's Gosder Cherilus, but he's been shut out in the other games. The Bears' pass rush has been shut out the last two games. According to Stats Inc., St. Clair surrendered 10 of the Bears' 29 sacks last season, most on the team.

We reached out to KC Joyner to go over some of the run blocking metrics he completed after film review of the Bears. The numbers showed that right guard Roberto Garza was not only the Bears' most efficient run blocker last season, he was one of the best guards in the game, ranking ahead of the three Pro Bowlers Joyner has final numbers for--Chris Snee, Leonard Davis and Alan Faneca.

"If you ask me about the 22 teams I've run the numbers on so far, he is probably the second most surprising,'' said Joyner, who will publish the results and more in Scientific Football 2009. "[New York Jets center] Nick Mangold is probably the most surprising. I knew Mangold was good but he is head and shoulders above any other center and will probably be the highest ranked POA lineman [94.3 percent] when I am done in another two weeks.

"The last time I did this, in 2005, Garza was in the low 80's and for him to be [at 88.3] is a little surprising in that he's ahead of these Pro Bowl guards. I love doing the numbers, watching the tape and then running the numbers. In most cases the numbers agree with what you say in scouting, `This player is this and that.' Usually, the metrics follow what you're seeing in scouting. Whenever the two disagree, I lean on the metrics more than scouting. You can see a player have one bad play and in the back of your mind, `He stinks.' The metrics don't care. The one bad play will be registered and then `Let's see the other 150 he had.'''

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Some observers speculated that Roberto Garza's standing as the right guard was in jeopardy after the Bears signed Frank Omiyale to a contract just hours into free agency.

That's proven not to be the case--Omiyale is the favorite to lock down the left guard job when training camp opens. Just today another observer produced evidence that helps explain why Garza isn't going anywhere. KC Joyner, author and publisher of The Football Scientist, was kind of enough to share with us his run blocking metrics after just completing film analysis of the Bears. He's halfway through the NFC North (having also completed a review of the Detroit Lions) and Joyner has already knocked out the AFC East, NFC West, NFC East, AFC North and AFC South, meaning he's nearly three-fourths of the way through the league with just the AFC West and NFC South remaining after he polishes off Green Bay and Minnesota.

What do his findings show? Not only was Garza the best lineman for the Bears last season, he was among the best right guards in football. His numbers are superior to some Pro Bowl guards. Before we jump into the numbers, let's try to make sense of them.

Joyner's system, which will be published in Scientific Football 2009 a little later on this summer, is based on what he calls the Point of Attack (or POA). It tracks how often a blocker is at the POA where a running play is directed. We'll let him describe it:

"It is not based on the location of the block but rather specifically tracks which blockers were actually at the point of attack. A POA block is considered to be successful (i.e. a POA win) if the blocker created a lane through which the runner could go.


"If the blocker is beaten at the POA, I segment those losses into five categories: Gap stuff (blocker gets stopped at POA); Defeated block (defender gets past blocker at POA); Pushed into backfield/POA (blocker gets moved into backfield/POA and negatively impacts runner's progress); Penetration (defender gets past blocker and makes contact with ballcarrier in backfield); Stringout (defender strings run to outside out). The last formula takes into account run penalties. An offensive penalty (i.e. holding, illegal use of hands, etc.) counts as a POA loss and a defensive penalty as a POA win."

Joyner considers an 80 percent net POA winning percentage to be acceptable. He charts the number of yards gained/lost on each POA run for a lineman. The chart below shows that not only did Garza do well last season, so did Josh Beekman, who will be in competition with Omiyale at left guard.

Lineman POA attempts Yards Avg. POA Pct.

RG Roberto Garza 205 960 4.7 88.3
LG Josh Beekman 175 834 4.8 85.7
RT John Tait 104 443 4.3 84.6
C Olin Kreutz 168 726 4.3 81.5
LT John St. Clair 112 459 4.1 79.5

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Getting back to our position-by-position breakdowns as we move closer to the first practice of the summer at Olivet Nazarene University, we move to the offensive line.

Projected starters: LT Orlando Pace, 6-7, 325, 13th season, Ohio State; LG Frank Omiyale, 6-4, 315, 5th season, Tennessee Tech; C Olin Kreutz, 6-2, 292, 12th season, Washington; RG Roberto Garza, 6-2, 310, 9th season, Texas A&M-Kingsville; RT Chris Williams, 6-6, 315, 2nd season, Vanderbilt.

Others

Johan Asiata, 6-4, 300, Rookie, UNLV
Cody Balogh, 6-6, 303, 1st season, Montana
Josh Beekman, 6-2, 310, 3rd season, Boston College
Dan Buenning, 6-4, 300, 5th season, Wisconsin
Dennis Conley, 6-2, 300, Rookie, Hampton
Lance Louis, 6-3, 305, Rookie, San Diego State
Tyler Reed, 6-5, 305, 1st season, Penn State
Kevin Shaffer, 6-5, 318, 8th season, Tulsa

Projected depth chart

LT: Pace, Shaffer
LG: Omiyale, Beekman
C: Kreutz, Beekman or Buenning
RG: Garza, Beekman
RT: Williams, Shaffer

2009 salary cap numbers

Johan Asiata $311,666
Cody Balogh $315,200
Josh Beekman $563,325
Dan Buenning $905,200
Dennis Conley $311,000
Roberto Garza $1,565,000
Olin Kreutz $4,133,333
Lance Louis $320,495
Frank Omiyale $4,950,000
Orlando Pace $5,333,333
Tyler Reed $317,280
Kevin Shaffer $2,383,333
Chris Williams $2,149,700

Number of offensive linemen on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 9

Projected number of offensive linemen on 2009 roster at start of the season: 8

The skinny: The Bears are reshaping their offensive line for the second consecutive year after using the same five (Tait-Brown-Kreutz-Garza-Miller) for the three previous seasons. They're set to open with their third left tackle, Pace, and third right tackle, Williams, in as many seasons. Nothing is official but Omiyale, the newcomer in free agency, is expected to supplant Beekman at left guard giving the front a new look at 60 percent of the positions. Line coach Harry Hiestand has done a credible job with what he's been given, which for most of his tenure has been a veteran group with a handful of castoffs from other cities. Hiestand didn't break stride last season when Williams was lost on the second day of training camp, forcing him to play John St. Clair at left tackle when the plan was for the veteran to be at left guard. Now, general manager Jerry Angelo is hopeful that his medical risk will pan out in a big way.

Ultimately, right tackle is not where the club projects Williams, the first-round draft pick from 2008, to be. But the hope is the team can squeeze a couple of Ruben Brown-type years out of Pace. He missed 25 games over the last three seasons in St. Louis, but Pace started 14 games last season. One NFC scout said he still looks solid as a pass blocker and the issue for the former No. 1 overall pick is run blocking. Pace was in good condition during the offseason program and it could be that a change of scenery and escaping a struggling franchise will reinvigorate him. The Bears have covered themselves in the event that injuries happen as they have Shaffer in a swing tackle role, not to mention Omiyale, who can play outside. That type of flexibility on the line will be an asset and there is little doubt right now the team will go with eight linemen to open the season. That was the plan last year until Williams had back surgery in August. In choosing to keep him on the 53-man roster, the Bears forced themselves to keep a ninth lineman. Omiyale should provide a little more bulk inside in replacing Beekman, and that was one of the stated goals early in the offseason. Kreutz remains the anchor of the group and with the Bears certain to face fewer eight-man fronts with Jay Cutler at quarterback, it will be interesting to see if the perception of him changes. Some have suggested the six-time Pro Bowl performer has been in decline but with Cutler and Matt Forte able to better keep opponents honest, the Bears' run blocking might look different.

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The offensive line had a new look when the Bears opened the doors at Halas Hall for their OTA on Wednesday.

Orlando Pace looked to be in the kind of top shape the team advertised when they signed him within minutes of trading for Jay Cutler on April 2. He was installed at left tackle, the spot manned by John St. Clair last season and John Tait for the three seasons prior to that. Chris Williams, the 2008 first-round pick, is getting more comfortable at right tackle. But the makeover might not be done yet. Most expect Frank Omiyale, who the team signed hours into the free agency period, will claim the left guard job sooner or later. Sooner could be by the start of training camp. But Josh Beekman has not relinquished anything yet.

"It is a competition,'' Beekman said. "Frank is a great guy and he is a competitor. He is going to make the Bears better. If he beats me out, he makes the Bears better. If I win my spot back, hopefully I make the Bears better. Competition breeds success. They brought him in and Frank is a hard worker."

Beekman was a fourth-round pick from Boston College in 2007. He wasn't used as a rookie and it looked like St. Clair would eventually land the left guard job last summer until Williams went down with back surgery. Beekman stepped in after Terrence Metcalf underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and he didn't look back. He was on the field for all but five snaps during the season as the Bears were one of just six clubs to have all five offensive linemen start 16 games.

The knock on Beekman coming out of school was he was undersized. The club lists him at 6-2, 310 pounds. He said he's been working with strength and conditioning coach Rusty Jones to increase his lean mass, but the Bears have started their goal to get bigger on the line and Omiyale is listed at 6-4, 310. Ultimately, the decision could weigh on the size of a contract. Omiyale signed a four-year deal worth as much as $14 million and he will collect $6.3 million of the $11.5 million base value this season. The thinking by some is Beekman could eventually take over for veteran center Olin Kreutz, but he's signed through 2010 and could look to play beyond that. Beekman will be a free agent (provided there is a CBA extension) following the '10 season.

It all starts up front.

That is what general manager Jerry Angelo has always said and that is the way the Bears went around constructing this offseason, even if the blockbuster trade to acquire Jay Cutler is the move that still dominates the spotlight. But Angelo didn't want to lose sight of the line on Tuesday afternoon when discussing the club's moves to this point.

"Obviously, the quarterback position speaks volumes,'' Angelo said. "I think we all sleep better at night. He saves lives. But going forward, we've got to do other things to help him. We feel our offensive line, and I want you all to understand this to, when you're building on offense or defense, you have to have a philosophy. Our philosophy was to build that offensive line. We want to protect the quarterback first and then we want to supply him with the needed weapons. So I felt like we were able to do that.

"Our pro department [Bobby DePaul] did an excellent job of identifying some players young and old and we feel real good about our offensive line and that was a concern coming out of the season. Now, we're building inside-out and we're going to look at some of the perimeter people. Yes, we feel real good about having our quarterback and running back in place."

Need No. 10--Guard

Players on roster

RG Roberto Garza (signed through 2011)
LG Frank Omiyale (2012)
G/C Josh Beekman (2010)
G Dan Buenning (2009)
G Tyler Reed (2010)

Need

One of the goals the Bears set out to fill this offseason was to add some more size to the interior of the line. That was accomplished by a series of moves, the first of which was signing Omiyale to a $11.5 million, four-year contract on the first day of free agency. Omiyale spent all of one day at guard in minicamp before being moved outside when the coaching staff appeared to be frustrated with the makeup of the roster. Maybe that's what happens from time to time when you run a minicamp in mid-March. At any rate, Omiyale can move back inside now that Orlando Pace has been signed to play left tackle and Kevin Shaffer has traded places with John St. Clair.

It's simple to predict what the Bears' depth chart at quarterback is going to look like.

1. Jay Cutler
2. Caleb Hanie
3. Brett Basanez

or

1. Jay Cutler
2. Brett Basanez
3. Caleb Hanie

Sorting through the offensive line after the addition of Orlando Pace, things are not as clearly defined. Let's give it a try though:

Orlando Pace.jpg


The Bears have action on two fronts as they try to get involved in the Jay Cutler Sweepstakes while also working diligently to sign free-agent offensive tackle Orlando Pace.

The 33-year-old is a seven-time Pro Bowl performer and while he's missed 25 games over the last three seasons because of injury, he was out of only two games last season. Acquiring Pace would instantly give the Bears more freedom at the top of the draft. They could look at a wide receiver, defensive lineman or perhaps even a quarterback. Pace would come in and give the team three tackles and while general manager Jerry Angelo would be wise to look for a developmental tackle, he could wait until the second or third round.

Agent Kennard McGuire said in a text message that Pace's visit to Halas Hall Monday went very well. Pace didn't meet with the offensive coaches, though, as they were out of the building on vacation. He did receive a physical.

Trying to watch a little hoops and blog. That makes for rough blogging, so I will pull away from the buckets here briefly. We'll have a nugget a little later on too.

Q: Can you address what possible offers the Bears might come up with for Jay Cutler? It would seem that a first-round pick and Kyle Orton would be a good start. It's not like Jerry Angelo has had the best luck with his top picks anyway. And they just got the third-round compensatory pick. Do those two picks and Orton stand a chance at landing Cutler?

Scott Z., Parts Unknown

A: This is one of just many questions we received on this issue.

Let me ask you this, and before you answer, put yourself in the position of the Broncos.

Does the 18th overall pick and Orton sound like good value for Cutler from Denver's perspective?

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The Bears might have just bought more than a starting-caliber right tackle, they might have purchased some flexibility come the draft, which is one month from today.

Kevin Shaffer agreed to terms on an $8 million, three-year contract Wednesday that initially gives the Bears some badly needed depth on the offensive line, as well as some experience. Shaffer has traded places with John St. Clair, who signed with the Cleveland Browns last week within days of Shaffer's release by the new George Kokinis/Eric Mangini regime.

Shaffer, 29, has missed only two starts over the course of the last five seasons and at the minimum will be a swing tackle. He's expected to compete immediately for a starting job and that could allow the coaching staff to make Frank Omiyale's stay at right tackle a short one after the free-agent pickup was moved from left guard after one day of minicamp last week.

"It feels great and I am glad we were able to work something out,'' Shaffer said. "It's something we were talking about for a while and I am definitely excited. The goal is to come in and win a starting job. We haven't talked too much about that, or at length or anything, but when I get there I want to show them what I can do. I have always been a hard worker and I am in a situation where I am going to prove myself.''

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the John St. Clair category.

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