Bears general manager Jerry Angelo defended his offensive linemen after the disaster in New Orleans on Sunday as well as his efforts this past offseason to upgrade the unit.
In an interview with ChicagoBears.com, when asked to address critics who feel the team did not do enough to improve the offensive line, Angelo said, “We did everything you could possibly do to that position. Nobody did more than the Chicago Bears.”
That’s an awfully bold statement for a team that added just two players, first round draft pick Gabe Carimi and center/guard Chris Spencer, to the team’s biggest weakness from a year ago. Considering the team added Spencer only after they could not reach an agreement with veteran Olin Kreutz, the offseason moves look even less constructive.
But Angelo doesn’t limit the team’s blueprint for improvement to new additions alone. “We developed young players who are going into their second and third years,” Angelo added, “including another high draft pick in Chris Williams.”
My rebuttal to Angelo is that I’m not so sure you can say that developing bad linemen into below average linemen is truly addressing the problems along the offensive line.
Angelo has often stated that one of the hardest things to do in his profession is self-scout, and that has become abundantly clear throughout his time with the organization. He has not been able to infuse new young talent into the roster through the draft and has had to use free agency as the defibrillator to temporarily prolong the Bears’ dying Super Bowl hopes.
Devin Hester, Matt Forte, Charles Tillman, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are the only Bears draft picks to have started at least the last three seasons for the team. Credit Angelo for selecting all but Urlacher as each of them has provided something unique for the Bears throughout the years.
But which of the other Bears draft picks in recent years project to have productive careers?
Chris Harris has had a respectable career, but, further proving the organization’s troubles with self-scouting, the team traded him to Carolina after two years before realizing their mistake and reacquiring him three years later.
Chris Williams failed at both tackle positions and the team is trying to salvage the 2008 14th overall pick’s career at guard.
Lance Louis was replaced last year early in the season and has already suffered an injury this year.
Zack Bowman was once judged by the organization as the team’s best playmaker in the secondary and he supplanted Tillman as the No. 1 cornerback. That experiment lasted two and a half games last year before he was benched for Tim Jennings.
Craig Steltz and Corey Graham are special teams players at best.
Kellen Davis and Henry Melton are a pair of players finally getting the opportunity to start, but both have been inconsistent at this early point in the season.
The jury is still out on offensive tackles J’Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi, defensive end Corey Wootton, safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte and defensive tackle Stephen Paea as none of them have a sufficient body of work from which to judge them. I’d wager that Carimi will have the most productive career of the bunch, and that’s only assuming that he stays healthy — he’s currently out with a knee injury.
D.J. Moore, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox are good reserves at this point in their careers but none project to be starters on a championship team.
The most indicting evidence of Angelo’s failures as general manager is not the small quantity of draft picks that have made an impact for this team, but instead is the overabundance of wasted draft choices on players who are either no longer with the organization, or never panned out as NFL players at all.
In Jerry Angelo’s nine previous drafts with the team — not counting this year’s draft — only one first-round draft pick (Chris Williams), three second-round draft picks (Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Charles Tillman), and three third-round draft picks (Major Wright, Earl Bennett, Lance Briggs) still remain with the team. That’s an alarming statistic considering the first three rounds are from where a team’s impact players should be coming.
Now, a man who brought you such players as Michael Haynes (1st round), Mark Bradley (2nd), Dan Bazuin (2nd), Dusty Dvoracek (3rd), Garrett Wolfe (3rd), Michael Okwo (3rd), Marcus Harrison (3rd), Jarron Gilbert (3rd) and Juaquin Iglesias (3rd) is trying to defend his organization’s ability to develop young players — particularly offensive linemen — from within.
Does Angelo have enough credibility left for us to trust him?