Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery: The Captain of a Sinking Ship

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Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery: The Captain of a Sinking Ship
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I wrote back on April 5 extolling Bears running back Matt Forte for his achievements, which have been especially noteworthy in light of the terrible offensive line he has had blocking for him.

I watched as Bears general manager Phil Emery signed free agents Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall and Jason Campbell thinking those acquisitions meant he was going to draft multiple offensive linemen.

He did not.

Let me put things in perspective. How bad is the Bears offensive line?

B/R's featured columnist Matt Miller produced wonderful articles ranking the position players in the NFL. I examined his five on the individual offensive line positions and tabulated the "worst 6" for each of the 5 positions.

New England, Buffalo, Houston, Baltimore and Cincinnati in the AFC and Detroit, Seattle, Arizona, Carolina and New Orleans in the NFC had not a single weak offensive lineman.

Most teams had only one, including the New York Jets, Miami, Oakland, San Diego, Kansas City, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the AFC and Green Bay, San Francisco, St Louis, New York Giants, Washington, Philadelphia and Dallas in the NFC.

Only five teams in the NFL had multiple "weak links" on the offensive line:

 

Minnesota with two: left tackle Charlie Johnson and right guard Anthony Herrera

Tampa Bay with two: center Jeff Faine and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood

Indianapolis with two: guards Ryan Diem and Joe Reitz

Denver with three: center J.D. Walton, tackle Ryan Clady and guard Zane Beadles

Chicago with five: tackles J'Marcus Webb and Lance Louis, center Roberto Garza and guards Chris Williams and Chris Spencer.

All five Bears offensive linemen ranked in the bottom six in the NFL at their respective positions. Having five of the worst 30 offensive linemen in the NFL on one team is probably an unprecedented event.

Minnesota went about remedying their situation by picking tackle Matt Kalil with the No. 4 pick in the draft. The other four clubs did not do much including Denver who have to be concerned about protecting Peyton Manning. They did select Baylor center Phillip Blake in the fourth round. 

Let's study some of the elite and rising NFL franchises.

Pittsburgh, with only left tackle Max Starks identified as a weaker player, chose two quality guys in Stanford guard David DeCastro with the No. 24 pick in the first round and then Ohio State guard Mike Adams with the No. 56 pick in the second round.

Baltimore, with no O-line weaknesses, chose tackle Kelechi Osemele No. 60 and then Gino Gradkowski with the No. 98 pick.

Atlanta, also without O-line weaknesses, added guard Peter Konz with the No. 55 pick and tackle Lamar Holmes with the No. 91 pick in the draft.

Cincinnati, with no O-line weaknesses, added Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler with the No. 27 pick in the first round.

Detroit, also with no O-line weaknesses, added Iowa tackle Riley Reiff with the 23rd pick in the first round.

Carolina, with no O-line weaknesses, added guard Amini Silatolu with the No. 40 pick of the second round.

Miami added Jonathan Martin, a tackle from Standford in the second round.

Kansas City added Illinois guard Jeff Allen in the second round and Oklahoma tackle Donald Stephenson in the third round.

Houston, Arizona, San Francisco and the New York Giants added two guys in the early rounds as well.

So a majority of teams seemingly feel obliged to inventory a critical mass of quality offensive linemen.

What is new Bears general manager Phil Emery thinking?

I had to laugh when reading that he had signed James Brown of Troy, touted as the top undrafted lineman. That is faint praise indeed.

The intention is to shift him from left tackle that he played in college to guard in the pros. This guy has not often encountered top-flight competition, and on the few occasions he has, the results have been ugly. On November 20, 2010, Troy lost to South Carolina 69-24. Last year, Troy went 3-9 playing the likes of Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Western Kentucky and Arkansas State. Brown is years away from playing in the NFL.

There's the hope that last year's first round selection, tackle Gabe Carimi, is healthy this season, but there is no guarantee that will be the case. In fact, guard Chris Williams, the Bears' 2008 first-round choice, has been injury prone, and his starts have declined from 16 in 2009 to 13 in 2010 to just nine last year. 

Then there is the odd move to turn over the offense to Mike Tice. Why do you add offensive weapons such as Marshall and commit to the passing game and replace passing advocate Mike Martz with a run-oriented coach in Tice?

I can only assume Forte is going to be dealt for offensive line help.

However these offseason moves have left the Bears extremely vulnerable, and no team is going to feel compelled to offer them "fair market" value in exchange for Forte.

I had predicted the Bears to go 5-11 in my earlier article. Now I see that as a stretch. The most interesting thing about their 2012 schedule will be the "over/under" on how many games quarterback Jay Cutler will survive.

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