It looks like Chris Williams wil be the new LT
The Chicago Bears have not made it official with Chris Williams, but barring a new development it appears likely the former first-round draft pick is headed back to tackle.
Williams has spent time at both guard and tackle in the voluntary offseason workout program, according to one teammate, and the composition of the roster makes it clear heís needed on the outside. The Bears waived unproven tackle Levi Horn on Monday, eliminating another emergency option at the position. Horn spent the last two seasons on the practice squad.
It would appear general manager Phil Emery and the coaching staff have no other option but to play Williams at tackle. The club has plenty of depth on the interior, especially since the addition of Chilo Rachal in free agency last month. When asked about it during the draft weekend, coach Lovie Smith wouldnít commit to a position for Williams.
Chris Spencer, Lance Louis, Rachal and Edwin Williams all have experience playing guard and that mix provides the team with competition to sort through during training camp and preseason. At tackle, offensive coordinator Mike Tice has JíMarcus Webb and Gabe Carimi, the first-round draft pick from last year that the team hopes will be back before minicamp next month. Carimi is still working his way back from surgery on his right knee during the final week of December.
So, healthy bodies right now at tackle -- if you donít include Williams -- are Webb and undrafted college free agents A.J. Greene of Auburn and Tyler Hendrickson of Concordia. The club lists Troyís James Brown, another undrafted free agent, at both guard and tackle on the roster. He did a little of both during rookie minicamp. Greene declined an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine in February and also passed on a pro day workout at his school in March because he wanted to start a music career. He since has changed his mind. Hendrickson was a Division II All-American at the school in St. Paul, Minn. Thatís a long way from the NFL.
That means Williams is needed at tackle for a number of reasons. First, the Bears have expressed total confidence that Carimi will be back to full strength soon and be the emerging young talent he was last year. But heís played only 1 1/2 games in the league and itís impossible to say where heís at until the pads are on and the action is live. Second, the club needs to push Webb. Tice and Smith have said they believe in Webb, but that doesnít mean heís in a position of being able to enter training camp as the undisputed starter. He struggled too much at times last season. Switching Williams back to tackle would allow him to compete for the left tackle job he once had and provide insurance for Carimi. There really isnít another option unless they suddenly fill the final spot on the 90-man roster with an experienced tackle.
Itís worth wondering if Tice truly would consider Williams as a starter at left tackle. Williams started there for the first two games in 2010 before suffering a hamstring injury. When he returned, he was inserted at left guard in what seemed to be a permanent move. Williams has started 20 career games at left guard, more than anywhere else on the line. He has 11 starts at right tackle and seven at left tackle. The clubís top pick from 2008 -- 14th overall -- is entering the final year of his contract.
The only other option for the Bears could be to consider Louis at tackle again. He started 11 games at right tackle last season but Williams has been the one taking some time at tackle so far, and remember, the club is certain Carimi will be the top talent he was viewed to be a year ago soon.
The upside is Williams must realize there is a lot at stake for him entering this season. He missed seven games last season after the freak wrist injury. He should be at the top of his game and the Bears didnít have anyone to push the tackles last year with Frank Omiyale as the third option. It will be interesting to see how Tice has the line organized when OTAís begin next week at Halas Hall.