Hat tip to Doshi, who requested this topic when he won last weeks Tuesday Bears Trivia!
We know the obvious./ The Matadors of the Midway stunk up the place last year. Experience, adjustments and time to gel did all work to improve the line's overall performance as the season wore on, but the final product was in no way acceptable. Let's take some time and take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the offensive line as it was at the end of the 2010 season, and for some of the prospects the Bears have been said to be targeting.
Olin Kreutz - Center: This is hard to write for sentimental reason, as Olin has been one of my all-time favorite players for the Bears. For years, Olin dominated as one of the best centers in the game, being selected to the Pro Bowl 6 times, selected as an All-Pro twice and being selected to the 2000's All-Decade team. That being said, Olin is in steep decline, and if the Bears can wrestle one more good year from him, they should consider themselves lucky. The game has passed him by. He no longer has the explosiveness from the snap to help open holes for the running game, and he doesn't have the strength to be the same effective blocker in the passing game. His leadership skills are the Bears biggest asset in him, at this point, and those should not be discounted. But the Bears have to be looking for his replacement immediately. Olin is passable, but just barely, at this point.
Roberto Garza - Right Guard: Garza was probably one of the most under-appreciated FA pickups in Bears history. Since 2005, he has been consistent in both run blocking and pass blocking. But like Olin, Garza is getting long in the tooth and is on the downside of his career. While he is still pretty effective as a run-blocker, his agility seems to be waning, and his pass blocking prowess with it. Additionally, where in the past he had been the Bears best pulling guard, he seemed to end up either behind the play or missing his blocks when pulling this last season.Garza will be serviceable enough to do in a pinch, but the Bears need an upgrade at this position, and if the Bears draft well, Garza will be watching this year go by from the sidelines.
Chris Williams - Left Guard: Many are sure that Williams has reached the point of "Bust" and with good reason. But that being said, I think Williams stands a good chance of remaining a starter at this position. He may have been drafted to be the franchise left tackle, but he is more well suited to guard, especially in this offensive system. While Williams does possess the agility that you look for in a Left Tackle, he doesn't possess the initial burst or the arm length that is ideal for the blind-side tackle. What he does possess is a good technique in blocking in space and the ability to pull. Add in his size and room on his frame for growth, and I think you end up with a pretty good guard, if he can get his run-blocking technique down. I think he stands a good chance of success if the Bears keep him at the LG spot. But moving him back to tackle, or moving him to the right side of the line could very well end Williams' career.
J'Marcus Webb - Right Tackle: I'm going out on a limb here: Before all is said and done, J'Marcus Webb will be the Bears left tackle. And he will be good. I know that isn't a popular notion, but I'm betting it still ends up being true. Webb wasn't great last year. But he wasn't horrible, either. The Bears knew he was raw when they picked him up in the 7th round last year, and he most certainly was. But he showed flashes of athleticism that stunned me at times coming form a linemen, and he got better as the season wore on. He has the size, strength, quickness and agility that could make him a true diamond-in-the-rough find. His technique is lacking, though. If the Bears can get this kid up to speed on his form, he will be the left tackle that everyone wishes they took in the 2010 draft.
Frank Omiyale - Left Tackle: For all of the complaining about Omi, he was probably the best overall offensive linemen in Chicago last year. And the Bears could do worse than to have him starting again next year. He's more suited to the right side of the line, but while on the left side he helped stabilize the offensive line and keep Cutler from getting killed, and that's gotta count for something. He probably has the best burst off the line of the Bears linemen, and has long arms and decent agility. His pass blocking isn't spectacular, but it got the job done (usually). His run blocking, though, was fantastic. Chicago ranked first in the league running off the left end. That says something for Omi (as well as for Chris Williams and his ability in pulling).
Mike Pouncey - Center/Guard: Pouncey would be the answer to an aging Olin Kreutz. Pouncey is noted for his size, athleticism and versatility as well as a bit of nastiness. He is quick off the line, has good form and latches on well in run-blocking assignments and he has a great pop before getting into his stance in pass blocking. The only real knock on Pouncey to be had is inconsistent effort.
Danny Watkins - Guard: Watkins has the size and strength, but lacks some of the athleticism. He is good in run blocking, but has issues getting beat by hand play. His pass blucking is decent, but he can be beat to the inside. His quickness is a bit lacking. All that being said, for what is considered a raw talent, his technique is pretty good.
Gabe Carimi - Tackle: Carimi is a fantastic pass-blocker and solid run blocker who is known for his elite athleticism, his quick feet and his elite first step. His technique is decent, but his balance is questionable, and he has been known to end up on the ground too frequently, often due to over-reaching to make contact on a block or defenders taking advantage of his quickness. He moves well behind the line, and his downfield blocking is spectacular. He's also known for a solid work ethic.
Nate Solder - Tackle: Nate has the size and athleticism to be a protypical left tackle. Solder is also said to own the work ethic to make the Pro Bowl in the NFL. Has great quickness and burst, and a nasty side to boot. He has problems with quicker defenders in run blocking assignments but overall a good run blocker. He plays with good leverage and bends his knees well. Very good pass blocker, but opponents occationally get under his pads and drive him backwards.
Derek Sherrod - Tackle: Known for his strength and his initial quickness, Sherrod's recognition also gets a lot of attention. He's considered a very good pass blocker and has the size the Bears seem to be looking for. His run blocking needs work though and is considered a big weakness. He gives consistent effort and has good, but not elite agility and overall quickness.
There you have it friends. You offensive line and top offensive line prospects. Who do you think the Bears should go after? And who should just go?