Saturday, April 13, 2013
Bears draft preview: Guards
By Michael C. Wright
ESPNChicago.com continues its daily Bears draft preview series with a look at the guards.
Valdosta State standout right guard Edmund Kugbila could be an option for the Bears in the fourth or fifth round.
Adding at offensive tackle increased the number of candidates for one of the starting guard positions, and the acquisition of former New York Jets veteran Matt Slausen solidifies at least one side of the line at guard.
Still, there's a good chance the Bears could explore adding another player to at least compete for a starting job, and there appears to be no shortage of talented candidates available in this year's NFL draft. Issues at offensive tackle in recent years have garnered the most publicity, but the loss of three players (Chilo Rachal, Lance Louis and Chris Spencer) that combined for 24 starts in 2012 leaves little left in the cupboard at the position.
"What you want in an offensive lineman No. 1 is production," Bears general manager Phil Emery said in February. "You want guys that produce consistently, and you call those guys starters. You're looking for guys that have the size, mass, strength and quickness to accomplish that at the NFL level."
The loser in the battle for the starting job at right tackle between J'Marcus Webb, Gabe Carimi and Jonathan Scott could add at least one more candidate to the mix for one of the guard spots. But it's likely the Bears will add at least one player at guard to increase the competition at the position.
According to a source, the club held a private workout with former Valdosta State standout right guard Edmund Kugbila, who moved to the states from Ghana in 2000. Kugbila graded out at 93.8 percent last season in 14 starts, and didn't give up a single sack in helping his school win the Division II national championship.
Projected as a fourth- or fifth-round pick, Kugbila will need to make the adjustment from blocking out of a two-point stance in Valdosta State's spread attack, to working out of a three-point stance in the NFL. There are also concerns about Kugbila's history of concussions.
Analysis: Offensive tackle gets the most publicity, but guard appears at this point to be the most concerning position on the offensive line going into the 2013 season. The addition of Slausen should solidify one of the starting spots. But of the six players to start games at the guard positions for the Bears last season, just three -- Edwin Williams, James Brown, and Carimi -- will be back this season. Of those three, Brown, an undrafted rookie in 2012, started the most games (three) last season. While promising at times he didn't exactly inspire faith that he could be the long-term solution at one of the guard spots.
The team's most consistent player at guard in 2012, Louis bolted for the Miami Dolphins in free agency. Rachal, who started eight games at left guard last season, recently signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Veteran Chris Spencer, who started five games at both guard positions in 2012, signed with the Tennessee Titans. So look for the Bears to give guard some attention at some point during the draft. New offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer has shown a knack for developing lesser known talent along the offensive line.