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Right guard Roberto Garza is suited up and practicing this morning in the Walter Payton Center after sitting out Wednesday's workout with a right ankle injury.

He is expected to start Sunday's game at Minnesota. Garza was the only player to miss Wednesday's practice. The Bears moved Josh Beekman to right guard and plugged Frank Omiyale in at left guard. Now, they're back with Beekman at left guard.

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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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.

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Emptying out the notebook for everything that is leftover from Wednesday's opening OTA:

*** If there was one undrafted college free agent that stood out now that the veterans are in the mix it was Louisville cornerback Woodny Turenne. By no stretch is it going to be easy for Turenne to make the final 53-man roster, and basing any odds after one OTA is impossible, but he made some plays. Turenne made a nice move to jump in front of a Caleb Hanie pass intended for Juaquin Iglesias and pick it off. He also had some plays on the ball.

With the long hair coming out of the back of his helmet, he looks like Al Harris running around out there. That can't be a bad thing. Turenne has good size at 6-1, 182 pounds, and he's shown decent speed and most importantly instincts. There are eight cornerbacks on the roster, although that number drops to seven with Corey Graham now at free safety. The Bears are going to kick the tires on veteran Rod Hood, who will be at practice today, a workout closed to media. Adding Hood makes sense because he be a third veteran corner.

Turenne was a junior college transfer and played well at times in school, suffering a broken clavicle at the end of last season. He was not invited to the combine and didn't have a particularly good pro day so that dropped him to the undrafted ranks where the Bears scooped him up as a free agent. The key for him moving forward will be to continue to show up every opportunity he gets. If he can prove to have some worth on special teams, even better.

*** If we didn't mention it Wednesday, looks like the Zack Bowman to safety movement has ended. He was back at left cornerback filling in for Charles Tillman (shoulder). With Graham going to safety it's fair to assume Bowman will remain at cornerback.

*** Here is how the second team offensive line stacked up--LT Cody Balogh, LG Frank Omiyale, C Tyler Reed, RG Dan Buenning, RT Kevin Shaffer. Buenning worked in practice as a backup center for most of the second half of last season. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has suggested he'll be in position to compete with Roberto Garza at right guard. The Bears have expressed their confidence in Garza however.

Need No. 3--Offensive tackle

Players on roster

LT Orlando Pace (signed through 2011)
RT Chris Williams (2012)
OT Kevin Shaffer (2011)
OT Cody Balogh (2010)

Need

The order we have been using for the Bears' needs comes from the file we produced for the Sporting News. That order was changed after the Jay Cutler trade and signing of Orlando Pace, and while we updated the list for the magazine, we were going off the old one. We wrote Wednesday that free safeties were next, and that's changed. So, you can easily determine that free safety and wide receiver are the two positions remaining. We apologizing for any confusion. On with the breakdown and explanation of need. General manager Jerry Angelo said on Tuesday that drafting a lineman, not just a tackle, would put the Bears in the unfamiliar position of having to carry nine linemen on the 53-man roster. The team already has eight veterans in place--Pace, Williams, Shaffer, Frank Omiyale, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, Josh Beekman and Dan Buenning. A team can carry a ninth lineman but that spot would have to come from somewhere else--a third quarterback or a fifth running back (tailbacks and fullbacks combined) would have to be sacrificed, as an example.

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:

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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.''

Day 2 of minicamp didn't have quite the suspense of the opener when negotiations in Cleveland for offensive tackle John St. Clair hung over the situation. It's a clean break for the Bears now as they can chart a path to the future by building a young line. Let's get right to the questions and remember we'll do one more Q&A in Four Down Territory this week on Friday.

Q: Chris Williams finally manned the left tackle position and Cody Balogh was at right tackle in practice Tuesday. What's happening at guard? I know the new guy Frank Omiyale is working at left guard but how are both the left and right guard spots going to work out?

Jay E., Michigan

A: You got the breakdown at tackle for the first day right but the action changed today as Omiyale was moved to right tackle.

Let me tell you what I have seen for two days at guard.

Josh Beekman has been working with the first team at left guard and Omiyale was been with the second team before his move.

At right guard, Roberto Garza is working with the first team and Dan Buenning has been behind him when he hasn't been serving as the backup center.

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.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Roberto Garza category.

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