Needless to say, the Monsters of the Midway have had trouble all season along their offensive line, and not only do they need to think about tinkering here and there for the rest of 2010, but looking ahead to 2011 and beyond isn't a bad idea, either.
The only blocker to start every game for Chicago this season is center Olin Kreutz, and he is in the last year of his deal. Roberto Garza, Lance Louis, Chris Williams and Edwin Williams have all started games at guard, with Garza beginning on the left side but eventually moving back to his customary position on the right side. At tackle, Frank Omiyale, Kevin Shaffer, J'Marcus Webb and Chris Williams have been asked to start at one time or another, with Omiyale originally at right but since shifting to left and exceeding most fans' relatively low expectations.
General manager Jerry Angelo signed another O-lineman to the 53-man roster last week, grabbing second-year pro Herman Johnson off the Cardinals' practice squad.
For an insider's perspective on Johnson and what he can add to the Midway Monsters on offense, BearReport.com consulted with Brad Wilbricht, who covered Johnson for AZRedReport.com and FOX Sports Arizona:
Strengths: Johnson boasts tremendous size and is an extremely physical presence at the point of attack. Additionally, Johnson usually demonstrated solid footwork and overall technique under the guidance of Hall of Famer Russ Grimm in Arizona, who serves as the team's offensive line coach.
Weaknesses: Johnson battled weight issues that limited his progress in 2009 and ultimately led to a demotion to the practice squad following training camp earlier this season. Johnson's inability to match up against speed rushers off the edge forced the Cardinals to move him inside to guard.
Wilbricht Says: Due to a noticeable lack of athleticism on the perimeter, Johnson may not pan out as a starting tackle, but his ability to play on the interior as well makes him a quality backup – particularly as a practice-squad pick-up this late in the season.
JC's Take: The Bears may be doomed if their goal is for Johnson to compete at the right tackle spot, which is what the 6-7, 360-pounder told reporters in the locker room the day after he was signed, as it appears Arizona already tried him there and didn't like the results.
No question about it, Webb is struggling at right tackle this season, having given up his fair share of sacks and also being whistled for way too many penalties, but that is somewhat expected for a rookie seventh-round pick out of tiny West Texas A&M. Even if Webb was originally a blue-chip recruit out of high school and competed as a freshman at a powerhouse program like Texas, the fact remains that he spent the majority of his collegiate career facing inferior pass rushers not capable of performing at an NFL level. But offensive line coach Mike Tice likes him and believes he'll be a serviceable player one day, and Omiyale has done well enough protecting the blind side at left tackle to stay there in 2011.
An eventual move back inside to guard could be in the cards for Johnson, especially with Garza in the twilight of his tenure in Chicago.
John Crist is the publisher of BearReport.com. Brad Wilbricht is the publisher of AZRedReport.com.
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