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In this ongoing series, we'll take a position by position look at the Chicago Bears roster with an eye towards 2013. We'll speculate on who stays, who goes, and some potential additions we'd like to see. Also thanks to our friends at Pro Football Focus, we'll bring you their unique insight on the Chicago Bears.
I'll break down the Chicago Bears offensive line by position, and since the official Bears roster doesn't list anyone as just a center, I'll include the starter and his primary back up in this article.
Roberto Garza - Signed through 2013 - I think Garza is a serviceable player at this point in his career, but the Bears should look to upgrade. He'll be 34 in a couple months, and he just finished his 12th season in the NFL, a season in which he took every offensive snap.
Just as I speculated last year, if they find a suitable replacement this off season, I can see Garza being released. His cap number isn't that astronomical at nearly $3 million, but if he's not starting, that's a hefty hit for a back up. Garza does have some value because he can play all three interior positions, but with a new regime in place, his spot isn't guaranteed.
Pro Football Focus graded 20 centers that took at least three fourths of their teams snaps last season, and Garza was 17th with a -5.6. In my final Sackwatch tally I had Garza giving up two sacks, and PFF had him allowing five. He actually graded out positively in pass blocking and in screen blocking, but as a run blocker he had a -8.2. With so many double teams being executed by the interior of the offensive line, it's fair to think that with better guard play Garza would have graded out better, but the tape also shows plenty of times Garza was beaten by his man.
Edwin Williams - Signed though 2013 - Williams has never had extended time at center in the NFL, but you see WCG readers pining for him every year as the center of the future. I could understand if his limited snaps at guard were overwhelmingly good, but they haven't been. He's had some good games playing guard, but nothing that tells me he would be a slam dunk at center.
Even though Williams didn't take a snap at center in 2012, he is #2 on the depth chart, so I'll spotlight his PFF grade while playing guard. In 155 snaps, spanning between weeks 12-15, Williams graded out with a -2.9. His previous two years playing guard were graded out much better, a +3.2 in 2011, and a +5.3 in 2010. He has had some stand out performances in his three years as a Bear, but he's been inconsistent.
Basically he's a "guy", but I sure would like to see the Bears bring in some other guys to compete for the interior positions in Chicago.
2013 OUTLOOK - If the NFL draft falls ideally, I think the Bears will be drafting o-line at least twice. One guy to compete at tackle, and one guy to play inside, because they are definitely in need of more talent on the line.. Even though I'd like them to target an upgrade via free agency, I find it unlikely they will. Atlanta center Todd McClure is an unrestricted free agent, as is Denver's Dan Koppen. Both graded out better than Garza, but they are both older players as well. Another option could be the Colts' 26 year old A.Q. Shipley, who graded out at +6.9 in 455 2012 snaps, but he only has five career starts.
If they do go with a center in the draft, don't expect him to be an early choice. Most teams place low value on the G/C type players unless scouts label him a sure fire stud. If they do decide to go center, two of the better prospects that are both getting a 2nd round grade from NFL Draft Scout, are Alabama's Barrett Jones and Wisconsin's Travis Frederick.