Blocking for Cutler: Can It Actually Be Done?

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IJuly 4, 2010

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 22: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears talks with teammate Olin Kreutz #57 before going back onto the field with the offense against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on November 22, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Eagles defeated the Bears 24-20. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Bears offensive line had a tough time protecting new quarterback Jay Cutler last season.  Coming into this season, the line is basically the same as it was last year minus the aging Orlando Pace. 

Also, their new offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, is probably going to be calling a lot more pass plays next season, which means that the line is going to be blocking a lot more.  Can they do it or are the Bears going to be hurting next season?

A lot of the focus on what is wrong with the Bears is centered on their offensive line and perhaps it’s for a good reason. 

The offensive line of 2009 couldn’t block that well running or passing the ball.  Cutler spent a lot of time running around or on his back last season and that has to change this year.  The Bears playoff lives depend on it.

So will the line be better?  If not how can the line get better?  Will Cutler actually be able to throw the ball and not get killed?  Let’s find out.

When looking at how offenses that new offensive coordinator Mike Martz has run in the past work, we know that they are predicated on good line play, a strong-armed quarterback, a great blocking tight end, and a great blocking fullback.  Right now, it appears as if the Bears have what they need at quarterback, have the tight end that would work out well in this offense, and have the right fullback, but do they have the offensive line to make this thing work?

The answer is, maybe. 

The Bears are bringing pretty much the same offensive line group back in 2010 as they had in 2009 but there are some differences between last years group to this year’s group.

First of all, the Bears don’t have the aging Orlando Pace in the lineup any longer.  It was felt that Pace was a good acquisition when he first came to the Bears, but as the season wore on, we started to realize that Pace had reached the end of his career and that he was no longer effective.

Losing Pace meant that the Bears would have to switch third-year tackle Chris Williams over to the left side (which was done later on in the season last year).  While Williams wasn’t spectacular, he was impressive in a couple of the games that the Bears played towards the end of the season (against Jared Allen in their win against the Vikings and against the Detroit Lions).  So, it looks like Williams will be the left tackle of the future for the Bears.

The right side of the line (at the tackle position) will see some competition during training camp as both Frank Omiyale and Kevin Shaffer will battle it out.  Omiyale should have the edge there but Shaffer will be a decent enough backup in case things go wrong.  Both players should be solid (although Omiyale struggled at times last season) and at least adequate blocking in the new offense. 

The center position will be manned once again by Olin Kreutz who showed signs of age last season by making some mistakes and looking kind of tired down the stretch.  He is still better than some other centers in the league and should help the Bears out a lot in 2010.

At both guard positions, we should see Roberto Garza and Josh Beekman be the starters.  Once again, both are adequate but not spectacular and should hold up well in the new offense.  Garza is starting to show some age however so the Bears will think about getting some help their in the future.  Beekman can hold his own and should be better this season than he was in 2009.

Also helping out with pass protection this coming season will be the tight ends, fullbacks, and running backs.  When looking at the tight ends, the Bears have three guys with varying skill sets.  Both Desmond Clark and Brandon Manumaleuna have blocking skills, while Greg Olsen isn’t the best blocker on the team.  Kellen Davis could develop into a tight end that fits the system if he can develop his blocking skills better.  Richard Angulo could be a non factor.

In terms of the running backs that will be asked to stay in to block, the Bears have a proven blocker in Chester Taylor, but have some question marks with Matt Forte and Kahlil Bell.  Forte isn’t as aggressive as some running backs are and hasn’t been that good of a blocker.  Bell is an unknown and Wolfe doesn’t work well as a blocker because of his size.  Minor will probably not make the team.

A Mike Martz offense is a pass first offense no matter what anyone says.  The teams that he has coached have found success through the air and not so much on the ground (except for the Rams who had Marshall Faulk who had a lot yards both on the ground and in the air).  So the running backs will end up blocking much more in this year than they have in the past.

With the fullbacks, the Bears currently have both Eddie Williams and Will Ta’ufo’ou on the roster, and Williams has played some at tight end as well, so he might have the advantage there.  The fullback, when in the game, will be asked to block almost all the time.  Williams may have the edge there.

So getting back to the question at hand, will the Bears be able to block well enough and long enough for Cutler to throw the ball and allow the offense to be effective?  With all of the starters in place, the answer to that is yes.  There is plenty of talent within the Bears starting offensive line, their tight ends, their running backs and their fullbacks to block consistently and make this offense work.

Where it gets dicey is if there is an injury on the offensive line.  If any one of those starters goes down, the backups that the Bears aren’t qualified enough to handle regular duty so things could get ugly for the Bears.  Let’s just hope that they don’t have to go through that at all in 2010.

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