The Chicago Bears wrapped up their three day mini-camp on Thursday with their final practice and one of the lessons learned was a sneak peek at the new rushing attack being implemented. New offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer is in charge of design and coordination of the running game, and he's bringing in a new zone-blocking scheme that runs both inside and outside zone blocking concepts. The Bears ran inside zone with Mike Tice when they wanted to work between the tackles, but when they went outside, they ran power.
Now under Kromer we see the Bears will run a scheme similar to what the Redskins, and Texans run that inside outside zone blocking scheme that has been so effective for so long in the NFL. What makes this scheme work so well is it's simplicity and it's ability to create running lanes by forcing the defense out of their gaps. If the defense isn't disciplined in their keys and gap control, big runs off of cut backs to the weak-side of the defense can result.
With this new blocking scheme in mind I think it's important to consider to the type of offensive linemen that are required to block within that scheme. The current make up of the roster has three players, possibly a fourth that could play effectively in a zone blocking scheme. The starting offensive tackles are quick enough and athletic enough to get the job done. J'Marcus Webb showed initial quickness and ability to get up to the second level and cut off back side pursuit. Jermon Bushrod's make up is ideal for this system because he is so quick and light on his feet.
At the offensive guard position James Brown stands out as a player who is athletic enough to play within the system, as is Roberto Garza. The second offensive guard position is where the concern lies on offense, as neither Gabe Carimi or Matt Slauson appear quick enough in working up to the second level to cut off backside pursuit. Both players are on the big and lumbering side of the athletic scale.
So what does this mean heading into the NFL draft? It means that the Bears are likely to target athletic guards who show good technique but quickness and athleticism to take on linebackers in the open field. The ideal target for the Bears in the 2013 NFL draft is Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina. The big question is will Cooper slide past the Titans at the 10th overall spot in the draft?
The Titans are led by a former offensive guard in Mike Munchak, and their offensive line coach is Bruce Matthews, Munchak's line mate with the Houston Oilers. Both were hall of fame offensive guards and Munchak has publicly expressed his desire to continue to improve the guard spot, even after signing the best guard available in free agency, Andy Levitre. If Munchak gets his way, then Cooper will be off the board at 10 and the Bears will be looking elsewhere.
What other offensive guards fit the profile of an athletic player capable of coming in and playing guard. Three players immediately come to mind who show the ability to be guards in a zone blocking system. Dallas Thomas, Justin Pugh and Brian Schwenke are prospects the Bears could consider in the draft, especially if the Bears find a way to pick up a third round draft pick. All three offer potential versatility as offensive linemen as well. Thomas and Pugh could potentially line up at offensive tackle, while Schwenke is being targeted as a center, but played guard at Cal.