Chicago Bears’ general manager Phil Emery and contract negotiator Cliff Stein have done a tremendous job in Free Agency, despite having so many needs and such little cap space. LT Jermon Bushrod was maybe the most significant signing for two reasons: 1. the Bears get an above average LT to protect Jay Cutler’s blindside, and 2. the move shifts J’Marcus Webb to a more suitable role at RT.
The Bears might have solved their problems at offensive tackle, but they still have big question marks across the interior of the line.
The coaching staff is high on 2012 undrafted free agent James Brown at LG. He’s a talented lineman, but I don’t know if he’s the answer at LG for the Bears. At Center, physically, Roberto Garza looks close to done. At RG, Lance Louis, who was arguably the team’s best linemen last season, is a free agent and is also recovering from a torn ACL. Gabe Carimi is expected to compete at RG, but will his lack of athleticism be a liability in the run game?
I would be shocked if the Bears don’t address the interior of the line in next month’s Draft, and the top two prospects in this year’s class are Alabama’s Chance Warmack and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper. Either one of these top OG prospects could fall to the Bears at pick No. 20, so here’s the tale of the tape on both players.
Warmack: Back at Alabama, Warmack played LG in a man blocking scheme. Alabama heavily utilized the inside zone, paving the way for fellow NFL Draft prospect Eddie Lacy to rush for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns. Bears new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer utilizes plenty of inside zone blocks with similar personnel in Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, who like Warmack, are road-grading OGs. Warmack is likely a perfect fit if Kromer bring’s that run blocking scheme to the Bears.
Cooper: On North Carolina’s OL, Cooper played at LG where they effectively utilized him on outside zones and screen passes. North Carolina’s offense centered around the running game, where Cooper and the rest of his OL teammates were the main reason RB Giovani Bernard rushed for 1,228 yards and 12 TDs. Cooper is ideally suited for a zone-blocking scheme, which Trestman and Kromer have experience running. Both are likely to bring some of those concepts to the Bears’ offense.
Warmack: Warmack’s skill-set is based around power, as he’s more of a mauler than a finesse player. While most draft experts call him the most complete player in this Draft, the tape shows differently. You see a player who lacks athleticism when he attempts to block a defender in space. In a power blocking scheme, Warmack has the potential to be a Pro Bowl-caliber talent.
Cooper: While Warmack’s skill-set is based around power and strength, Cooper relies heavy on athleticism and technique. He is not going to maul opposing DTs, as he’s more of a technically sound OG, whose athleticism will bother most DTs.
Warmack: In the college ranks, Warmack was a dominant pass blocker, effectively using his power to stonewall opposing DTs from the LG position. He also shows great footwork to mirror speed rushers despite not being the most athletic OG in this class.
Cooper: Of the two, Cooper is the better pass protector. He is able to easily mirror DTs with technique and quickness. Against bull rushers, he’s able to sink his hips and anchor. Cooper is flawless and has the ability to be one of the best pass-blocking guards in the league in his first year.
Warmack: His shear power can be overwhelming for opposing DTs, and when he gets to the second level, he erases opposing LBs with ease. Warmack is not the same caliber athlete as Cooper, but he does do a decent job getting up field. When asked pull to the outside, Warmack lumbers, causing him to struggle to get a body on LBs.
Cooper: In space is where Cooper excels best in the running blocking department, as he can use his quickness and speed to get to the second level and seal off LBs. Cooper might not be the road-grading type, but he can effectively drive defenders back using technique instead of power.
Warmack: Warmack is a great offensive guard prospect, but at the same time, he’s a bit overrated by draftniks. He comes with some minor flaws. For instance, he’s not the elite athlete at the position as compared to Cooper. With Warmack, I see a guy who is going to have some trouble at the next level trying to reach linebackers on the edge in outside zone runs. However, I do see a player that will be a dominant force as a pass blocker and as a run blocker on inside run plays.
Cooper: Because of his athleticism, quickness and overall technique, Cooper is scheme versatile and has the potential to someday anchor the middle of an offensive line at center. In the immediate future, Cooper should be ready to step in and start right away at either OG spot. The best scheme suited for Cooper’s abilities is a zone-blocking scheme, but I honestly believe that he is so technically sound that he could excel in a man blocking scheme. I would be shocked if Cooper doesn’t have a Pro Bowl-caliber career; he’s that talented of a football player.
Ideal fit for the Bears: Jonathan Cooper
If you are a Bears fan, you would be happy with either player, but I lean more toward Cooper. Kromer has come out and said that the run blocking scheme will be a variety of things and that the offense will be a combination of what he and Trestman accomplished with the Oakland Raiders. It will also use some of the concepts he learned under Sean Payton while with the New Orleans Saints. If the Bears’ offense is going to be extremely versatile, as Kromer suggests, then you’re going to need linemen who can adjust to any mismatched advantage put in front them. Cooper is one of the few interior line prospects in this Draft who would give the Bears that luxury.
Warmack is a great physical specimen, but I have concerns on whether he can adapt to any scheme he’s inserted in. I don’t have that same concern with Cooper, as he's arguably the best interior line prospect in the Draft.