Memo to Lovie Smith: End the Frank Omiyale Experiement Now
At the time, the move was applauded for adding some much needed depth to a line that, at times, was shaky.
When training camp started, Coach Lovie Smith made it clear that it was an open competition between Omiyale and incumbent Josh Beekman for the starting left guard position.
However, despite the fact that Beekman played just as well as Omiyale, if not better through training camp and week one of the preseason, Omiyale was elevated into the starters role in week two of the preseason and has not relinquished the spot since.
While one could argue that perhaps Lovie saw something that others didn't, the general consensus is that Beekman lost the job strictly because Omiyale was paid handsomely, to the tune of 14 million dollars over four years.
Now, six weeks in, the move needs to be reevaluated regardless of paychecks.
The Bears offensive line has been atrocious this season, especially when it comes to run blocking. And while Omiyale is not the sole reason for these issues, he is a major component.
In week one against the Packers, DE Cullen Jenkins simply abused Omiyale, and to be fair LT Orlando Pace as well, constantly getting pressure on Cutler and getting into the backfield before running back Matt Forte could even get to the line of scrimmage.
A perfect example was in the third quarter, the Bears had just picked up a first down on a Forte rushing play. They attempted to run through the left side behind Omiyale and Pace. But on the snap, Jenkins pulled a swim move right past Omiyale, who whiffed completely on the block and ended up on all fours, and Jenkins stuffed Forte before he could even attempt to make a move, losing three yards.
In the three games that followed, Omiyale did little to establish himself as a lock for the starter's role as he has constantly been unable to get a push on run plays and has continued to have difficulties standing up defensive tackles on passing plays. One hoped that Omiyale would come off the bye week ready, but the extra time off seemed to slow his reaction time more than anything.
On the Bears' opening possession against the Falcons this past Sunday, they drove it down to the Atlanta 24 yard line and were facing a first and 10. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner called a run play and Forte started up the middle and then bounced it to the outside for a three yard gain. NBC showed the replay and analyst Chris Collinsworth spent most of his time praising Forte for showing excellent patience despite the rush by John Abraham.
What he failed to mention (and the replays confirmed) is that defensive tackle Jonathon Babineaux blew past Omiyale almost the exact same way that Jenkins did in week one and was in the backfield before Forte could even get to the line of scrimmage.
While it has not been mentioned because Forte managed to avoide the rush, the fact that defensive linemen have been consistently throwing off block attempts by Omiyale is an indication that he should not be in the starting lineup if the Bears want to succeed. These are not the only examples, just the most obvious.
And I am not saying that Josh Beekman is a Pro Bowl quality player, but he had success last year at that position and did not seem as overmatched as Omiyale has been through the first five games.
The offensive line has had time to gel, but it just hasn't worked. Now is the time to pull the plug. Now is the time to make a change. I am not saying that Omiyale can't be a positive contributor in the future, but right now, he may not be the best man for the job.
By putting in Beekman for these next two games, it gives him a chance to adjust to being a starter again before we get into the tough four game stretch that follows where we have a home game vs the Cardinals, at the 49ers, home vs the Eagles and at the Vikings.
Being a head coach is about making decisions. This is a decision that Lovie needs to make and make now.
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