As they went into the 2009 season, there was a lot of concern about how the Bears' offensive line would perform. At tackle, Jon Tait had retired and there was no clear cut starter to take his place. At guard, the Bears still had the ever reliable but aging Roberto Garza in one spot and the untested Josh Beekman at another.
This spelled trouble for the line.
The Bears grabbed former Carolina Panther and Atlanta Falcon guard Frank Omiyale in free agency to help shore up the guard position not manned by Garza. However, he wasn’t everything that the team thought he would be and struggled sometimes playing guard and tackle. He played in 16 games for the Bears and started 12.
The Bears say that for next season, Omiyale is going to be fixed to either the guard or right tackle position, which will probably be good for him. It will be interesting to see how he does fixed to one role.
While Garza has been reliable, but somewhat unspectacular in his position, he may not be as valuable as he once was. Garza played in and started in all 16 games for the Bears last season, making him solid and reliable.
However, he isn’t getting any younger.
He probably has a good two years left before he starts to break down and become ineffective. If the Bears are looking to replace him they need to start thinking about it now.
Josh Beekman got some time as a starter last season at the guard position (opposite Garza). When he was in, he didn’t play badly, but needed to start more often to gain consistency. He did play in 11 games last season and started four of those games.
Beekman may be a better player at the guard position than Omiyale was. In fact, things seemed to stabilize when he was in the lineup. The Bears will take a long look at him at that position this offseason and see how well he does in trying to come up with the right combination on the offensive line.
Keep in mind, Beekman is also the backup center, so if something goes wrong with Olin Kreutz, he will have to slide over to the center spot, leaving the guard position open for someone else.
Chicago has several other players at the guard position that they will try to develop over the coming months in hopes of finding a few that could help them get some depth.
One of those guys is John Asiata. Asiata hasn’t played yet in the NFL but he has as good a shot as anyone else at making the final roster. Lance Louis, a rookie last season, is another player that the Bears have projected to play at the guard position and he will get a shot in training camp this summer. He is a pretty athletic player, having played tight end for part of his collegiate career and may be able to earn a backup spot at some point.
The Bears may also want to look at adding some depth at the position in the draft this coming April. Some of the guys that they could target include Illinois' Jon Asomoah, Ole Miss guard John Jerry, and Clemson’s Austin Thomas. Any of these guys would be a big help to the Bears and their needs at the guard position.