By Shawn Muller–
Halas Hall needs a “help wanted” sign hanging from the windows starting this week and up to the 2011 NFL Draft in April.
The sign should read: “Now hiring offensive linemen who are prone to keeping a quarterback from lying on his backside more often than not, and possess the ability to open up running lanes for the running backs. Only serious candidates need apply.”
It is no secret that the offensive line is the biggest area of need for Chicago heading into the draft.
The Bears offensive line was…um…not very good this season (I am trying to put it nicely). The unit allowed an NFL-worst 58 sacks on the year, good for an average of over 3 sacks per game! Ouch! Quarterback Jay Cutler got plenty of quality face-time with his opposition via the sack due to this lack of pass protection. If people don’t want him missing any more time due to injury (yeah, I went there), the line play needs to be upgraded.
Everything on the offensive side of the ball starts upfront with the o-line. They are the ones who are responsible for opening up running lanes for the backs, and protecting the quarterback in the passing game. Not rocket science by any means, I know. The Bears ranked 30th in total offense on the year, averaging just 289.4 yards per game, ahead of only the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers. That is it! The team was 28th in the league in passing and 22nd in rushing. Putting the offensive numbers into perspective, it is astounding that Chicago had as good of a year as they did (thanks defense).
Since it is never to early to get an NFL fix, here are the two offensive linemen I believe should be at the top of the Bears wish list come April. While it is possible neither of these two players will be available when the Bears make their selection, it is not out of the realm of possibility to see both still on the board. The NFL Draft is a crazy animal sometimes…remember Aaron Rodgers? Sorry about that!
1. OT Gabe Carimi, 6’7’’ 327 lbs : Wisconsin
The Outland Trophy winner from the University of Wisconsin is an absolute monster in the trenches. He is a strong run blocker, and an even better pass blocker. With Jay Cutler constantly facing pressure in the passing game, Carimi is everything the Bears are lacking upfront. When you combine his speed and quickness to his prototypical size for a left tackle, Carimi is exactly the type of offensive lineman the Bears have been lacking and desperately need for some time now.
2. OT Nate Solder, 6’9’’ 315 lbs : Colorado
A First Team All-American in 2010, Solder. The reason I like this kid so much is simple: pass protection. His height and quickness is built for the left tackle position. The fact that he played TE/DE/LB in high school shows just how athletic this guy is. Many pro scouts think that he has the ability to gain another 15-20 lbs and not lose any of his quickness? Excuse me while I wipe the drool off of my keyboard.
Others to keep an eye on:
– OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
– OT Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
– OT Tyron Smith, USC
– OG Mike Pouncey, Florida
While I believe the offensive line should be addressed with the first round pick, there are some Bears fans out there that are clamoring for a top-end wide receiver, giving Cutler the game-changing type of threat the receiving corps lacks right now. The problem is, outside of Georgia’s A.J. Green and Alabama’s Julio Jones, the wide receiver class is average compared to years past. Because of this fact regarding the wide receiver position, I don’t believe you draft one in the first round…especially with the crop of receivers entering the draft in 2012.
With that being said, I leave the Bears 2011 first round draft pick in your hands…how do you proceed?
Do you agree with Shawn? Post your comments below.
Shawn Muller has lived in Chicago for 7 years. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and just recently received his certificate in radio broadcasting in October of 2010. Sports have always been a passion of Shawn’s. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, “Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.