Sources: Chris Williams to tackle
The Chicago Bears steadfastly denied the need to add to the offensive line this offseason because they plan to deploy the pieces already on hand differently, according to sources familiar with the situation, who said veteran Chris Williams will move back to offensive tackle.
New offensive coordinator Mike Tice reiterated the team's stance last week on the position during a three-day rookie minicamp.
"I think (general manager) Phil (Emery) and (head coach) Lovie (Smith) -- with the help of the scouts and the staff -- if we felt tackle were a dire need for us, I'm sure they would have answered the bell on draft day," Tice said.
Quarterback Jay Cutler, however, does not appear to be fully confident yet in his offensive line, calling it a "concern" during an apperance on Monday.
A former first-round pick -- 14th overall in 2008 -- Williams was drafted to play left tackle.
Considered one of the team's two most athletic offensive linemen -- along with starting left tackle J'Marcus Webb -- Williams might actually push Webb for the starter's role, with the loser of that position battle being relegated to the swing-tackle role.
According to Pro Football Focus, Webb ranked last season as the league's worst full-time starter at left tackle as he allowed 38 pressures, in addition to piling up a team-high 15 penalties for 82 yards, resulting in eight stalled drives. But Smith has defended Webb and his struggles this offseason, and has said the rising third-year veteran remains a part of the team's future.
The status of second-year player Gabe Carimi -- who is recovering from right knee surgery -- might also be at play in the team's plan to move Williams back to his original position. In addition, the acquisition of Chilo Rachal bolsters a group of guards that already features several players with starting experience such as Lance Louis, Chris Spencer and Edwin Williams, and gives the Bears several options as potential replacements for Chris Williams, who has started at left guard the last two seasons.
Tice and Smith insist Carimi remains on track in his recovery to return to full work before the start of training camp.
"We expect to see him at some point before the session is over; sooner than later," Tice said. "So we're pretty excited about that."
Should Carimi suffer a setback in his return, Williams or Webb -- depending on who starts at left tackle -- might provide insurance on the right side.
Williams hasn't started a game at tackle since Week 2 of the 2010 season against the Dallas Cowboys. In that game, Williams injured his hamstring on the team's first series. The week prior, in the opener against the Detroit Lions, the Bears gave up four sacks with Williams starting at left tackle.
After missing three games due to the hamstring injury sustained against the Cowboys, Williams moved to left guard, where he started the next 11 games. Williams started the first nine games of last season before a dislocated wrist landed him on injured reserve.
As a rookie, Williams played in nine games, seeing limited action at left tackle. In 2009, Williams started 11 games at right tackle and five on the left side.