One game. Actually a little less than one game. That's all we've seen of Frank Omiyale at left tackle and already some Bears fans are ready to anoint him the answer at that position. Chris Williams graded out pretty well the last few games on the left side in 2009, but so far through this years preseason, week one against the Lions, and the start of the Cowboys game, Chris Williams looks lost.
Omiyale will no doubt get a few more games at left tackle as Williams rests his hamstring. But once Williams is able to practice, where will he go? Back to his job on the left side, will a flip to the right side be best, or what about a move inside to guard? One thing that the Dallas game taught me is that offensive line coach Mike Tice isn't afraid to pull the trigger on a move.
The fact that Omiyale looked at home at LT blows me away. This guy had has had minimum, a handful of reps on the left side in his time in Chicago, and yet he made the switch look virtually flawless. You need your best tackle playing on the left side, and a choice between Omiyale and Kevin Shaffer isn't really a choice. Shaffer is a good swing guy that can come in in a pinch and play either side, but against a premier pass rushing player Shaffer is outmatched. He's a good backup, but I'd rather see him only at RT.
I asked the following question to Comcast Sports Net's John "Moon" Mullin in our Inside Scoop feature with him yesterday: After a solid finish to the 2009 season as the left tackle, why do you think Williams has struggled so far in 2010? His response:
I would have to look very, very hard at that ‘09 year. He finished ok but I'm not sure ‘solid' is good enough at that position in general. He is simply not a physical player in the mold of Pace, Munoz, Covert, Jones, Clifton, Long and a lot of the very, very good ones. You can be a sound player but at some point you need to be a glass-eater and I'm not sure Williams is at heart. I do, however, think Omiyale is, and he's one of the truly nicest guys you'll find in that locker room.
One reason left tackles are always drafted so high, and why many teams reach for left tackles is is they can't make it at LT in the NFL, they can usually slide to the right side or even move inside to guard. The LT is usually the most technically sound linemen in college, which makes them a safe pick from a GMs point of view. I agree with Mullin, that Williams doesn't show that "glass-eater" mentality on the field and you do like your LT to have a bit of swagger in his makeup. He's more often than not the top paid o-lineman and he's usually given the job of protecting the QB's blind side. If Williams doesn't have the disposition to play left tackle, where do you play him?
I'm not ready to give up on him at LT quite yet, but looking forward, if he can't hack it on the left, I think guard may be a better spot for him. The following snippets are from his scouting report coming out of college that lead me to believe he can play inside. I'm taking out some portions of the report that don't relate to playing guard, and the bold is mine. Taken from NFL.com.
Positives: Plays with adequate knee bend and is functional on short pulls and traps in-line when he plays on his feet but is not good running long distances...Quicker setting up in pass protection than vs. the run, but is better when working in a phone booth, as he is more apt to gain position working in-line... Has better reach, scope and down blocking ability when working in-line...Shows decent ability to sink his weight when sitting and holding up vs. the bull rush...Good on the short pulls when running a straight line, working hard to keep his feet on initial contact...Has experience at both tackle and guard (until he develops more bulk and strength, he might be a better fit at guard, thanks to his short area burst).
Negatives: Not soft, but lacks ideal overall muscle tone (has a thick frame that shows marginal definition) and will need to add more bulk to his frame for a potential move to guard at the pro level...Struggles to adjust in space, especially when trying to lower his body to push and control the defender on the move...Generally shows good vision, but will miss a few assignments now and then when his concentration lapses...Will sometimes struggle with quick defenders, but will use his size to take up space and anchor...Can pull, but is sometimes slow moving his feet and needs to do a better job of taking proper angles trying to adjust in the open field...
Compares To: D'BRICKASHAW FERGUSON-New York Jets...Like Ferguson, Williams relies on finesse moves and his long reach over power. Both need to improve their overall strength and add bulk to handle the demanding task of playing left tackle. Williams might be a better fit at guard early in his career, so as not to expose him against speedy edge rushers. He can mirror the quicker defender in the short area, but he is marginal taking on second-level defenders and needs to improve taking proper angles when working in space.
A lot of his report does say guard to me. Left guard to be precise. Speed rushers off the edge are plenty in the NFL, and if that's one the concerns, left tackle could be a problem for him. Inside he won't be asked to work in space, he'll rarely face a quicker defender, and even though he isn't a mauler, his technique will allow him to get position on defensive tackles and seal them off.
If Omiyale has a good showing these next few weeks at LT, maybe the answer is moving Williams to LG, Roberto Garza back to RG, and letting Shaffer play RT. I'm not usually big on flipping positions around mid season, but the Bears line is struggling, so you have to do what's best for the team.