Aaron Kromer plans to mix and match on Bears’ offensive line
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com April 18, 2013 9:36PM
Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator Aaron Kromer during practice at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., on Thursday, April 18, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 19, 2013 12:38PM
Aaron Kromer doesn’t mind being on the spot.
The Bears’ new offensive coordinator inherited an offense with a former Pro Bowl quarterback in Jay Cutler, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Brandon Marshall and one of the best and most-versatile running backs in the league in Matt Forte.
The Bears hired renowned offensive guru Marc Trestman to call the plays. They signed former Pro Bowl tackle Jermon Bushrod and up-and-coming tight end Martellus Bennett in free agency. The only missing piece is an offensive line to make it all work — and it’s Kromer’s job to build one. He has four months and 20 days to do it. And every Bears fan alive is watching.
‘‘It’s a great situation, because it’s important to the people in this city,’’ Kromer said. ‘‘You want them to want it to be good. I can’t tell you a whole lot about this offensive line. It’s a work in progress. So it’s hard to say.
‘‘But I told them [Tuesday] we’re going to shuffle this thing until we get the right five playing and the right three backing them up. We’re going to find the best players and put them in the best position to be successful.’’
The challenge is formidable. Kromer is installing a new offense with multiple blocking schemes with players who have little experience together. Bushrod played for Kromer with the Saints last year. Guard Matt Slauson played for the Jets last year. J’Marcus Webb is moving from left tackle to right tackle. Gabe Carimi is moving from tackle to guard. James Brown, an undrafted rookie last year, has started three games at left guard. He was a tackle in college.
That’s a lot of work.
‘‘It’s a challenge we look forward to, though,’’ Kromer said. ‘‘We’re looking forward to the fact that we have players that we can move around to different positions and find the best combination and work through our kinks. And that’s what the guys are excited about and that’s what I’m excited about.
‘‘We’re going to run a variety of blocking schemes. They did a lot of one scheme that had been successful for them and Matt Forte in the running game. We’re going to probably use more variety of zone plays and gap plays. Toss plays. I think the variety will be different.’’
Kromer isn’t making any promises. But his résumé is the most tangible reason for optimism. In five seasons with the Saints, Kromer had six linemen from every position on the line make at least one Pro Bowl. And most of them came in to the league with modest credentials: Bushrod and Jahri Evans were fourth-round draft picks. Guard Carl Nicks was a fifth-round pick. Right tackle Jon Stinchcomb was a second-round pick.
The secret to his success? There really isn’t one.
‘‘I’m a teacher,’’ Kromer said. ‘‘I think it’s important that you are specific if what you want; that you follow up with that specificity every day and make sure they continue to do it right. The hardest part is not to tell them, but to follow it up and continue making them do it right.
‘‘And the second [key] is getting to each guy differently. Everybody learns a different way. You might have one lineman more flexible than another; one that’s more powerful. Within the same play and that same technique, they’re going to have to do it a little bit differently to get the job done. You have to work that out and make it fit for that play.’’
It’s too early to measure the impact, but the players like what they’ve seen so far.
‘‘I think he’s great,’’ Slauson said. ‘‘His philosophies and everything is everything I’ve had some success with — a lot of jump-setting, quick get-on-them type stuff.’’
‘‘His whole emphasis is teaching you to be better and making the guy next to you better,’’ center Roberto Garza said.
‘‘He demands that you do the right things every single time. One time out of five isn’t good enough. You have to do it right every single time.’’