Return of Carimi, Williams will buoy O-line

G Chris Williams (Scott Boehm/Getty)

The Bears didn't draft any offensive linemen due to the return of Gabe Carimi & Chris Williams. We also discuss the role of fourth rounder Evan Rodriguez and seventh rounder Greg McCoy.

The Bears did nothing in the draft to improve an offensive line that has allowed 105 sacks over the past two seasons and ranked No. 32 in the league in percentage of sacks allowed per pass play.

They did, however, pick up unrestricted free agent guard Chilo Rachal, and they're expecting to get back two starters who missed time last season. Right tackle Gabe Carimi played just two games in his rookie season, while left guard Chris Williams missed the final seven with a dislocated wrist.

"We like our offensive that we have with Chris Williams getting back out on the football field and Gabe Carimi, too," coach Lovie Smith said. "Adding Chris and Gabe to the mix, there's a period of time, you might have forgotten, during the season where we played pretty good ball on the offensive line."

During a seven-game stretch last season -- Games 4-10 -- the Bears allowed just nine sacks. But in the final six games -- all without quarterback Jay Cutler, in addition to Carimi and Williams -- the O-line allowed 26 sacks, more than half the season total of 49.

"We've added Chilo, and there are still a few options out there, too," Smith said. "Believe me, we want to do everything we can to open up holes for our running backs and of course to protect Jay Cutler, and we feel like we'll be able to do that."

--Tight end Evan Rodriguez, the Bears' fourth-round draft pick agreed to terms on a four-year deal Tuesday, and he is expected to help fill the void of pass catcher that has been missing since Greg Olsen was traded a year ago.

"He's another guy that can do a lot of things for us, whether it's lining up at the fullback position, splitting out as an F guy, being able to move," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's got good speed, (and is a) good blocker. We can do a lot of things with him, too. He gives us a lot of options."

At 244 pounds, Rodriguez isn't going to help the Bears as an in-line blocker, no matter what Smith says. But they feel he's got enough grit to be a lead blocker from the fullback position or hit a moving target on the second level.

--Six days after their second-round wide receiver Alshon Jeffery became the first draft pick to agree to terms, the Bears reached agreement Tuesday with seventh-round kick returner/cornerback Greg McCoy on a four-year deal.

Over his career at TCU, the 5-foot-10, 178-pound McCoy returned 52 kickoffs for 1,505 yards, 3 touchdowns and a 28.9-yard average. He also started all 26 of the Horned Frogs' games over the past two seasons at cornerback and had 4 interceptions and 62 tackles.

The 220th overall pick was named a CBSSports.com and Yahoo! Sports first-team All-American at kick returner and the Mountain West special teams player of the year as a senior.

With Johnny Knox's health still in question, McCoy will compete for the backup kickoff returner behind Devin Hester, although the Bears have signed veteran unrestricted free agents Devin Thomas and Eric Weems, both of whom have been productive return specialists. McCoy will also contend for a backup cornerback position and is expected to contribute on special teams in coverage. The Bears have also added unrestricted free agent cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite in the off-season and re-signed Tim Jennings, who started 15 games last season across from Pro Bowl pick Charles Tillman.

"(McCoy) is going to have every opportunity to compete for that fifth or sixth corner depending on how many we keep," general manager Phil Emery said following the draft. "There's going to be an awfully good competitive mix since we brought in Jonathan and Kelvin to find out who makes that team."

The Bears, who host a rookie mini-camp this weekend, are hoping to have first-round defensive end Shea McClellin, third-round safety Brandon Hardin, fourth-round tight end Evan Rodriguez and sixth-round cornerback Isaiah Frey all signed by early next week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We did our research on Shea, and everything came up with high marks. He plays with a motor. You can't play around here unless you play hard every down. You don't have to tell him that, he's that way." -- Bears coach Lovie Smith on first-round pick, defensive end Shea McClellin.


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