Newly signed free agent center Brian De La Puente is the latest surprise to enter the Halas Hall. Phil Emery is making good on his promise to create competition by adding starter caliber back ups. Not even long snapper is guaranteed as the Bears recently signed Chad Rempel from the CFL who played under Marc Trestman in Montreal. The initial reports are that De La Puente is the primary backup center/swing guard coming into the season. However it would be hard to believe the fifth highest graded center in the NFL the last three seasons according to profootballfocus.com’s metric system, will spend an entire season on the bench until needed to substitute for an injured player, or being used situationally. Especially when comparing him side by side with Roberto Garza.
Of course the system Garza was playing in the last three seasons prior to the last one was much more difficult to pass protect in than the quick passing game the New Orleans Saints ran under Sean Peyton, and triggered by quarterback Drew Brees. However even that being the case you can simply use logic here and deduce that De La Puente would have at least a chance to compete for a starting job somewhere. Especially considering his connection to Bears Offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer who groomed the once undrafted free agent from a raw pup to one of the best at his position in the entire league.
The tape doesn’t lie either. One of the most respected talent evaluators among the football media Matt Miller ranked Garza 28th among all centers in 2013, and De La Puente 9th overall. Miller an ex NFL secondary member and someone who specializes on the scouting side for media watches tons of film, and his conclusions put De La Puente at the top and Garza at the bottom of center rankings. Where this is most evident is in the disparity of athleticism between the two centers especially in the run game. The Bears run a version of the stretch zone, and De La Puente is able to get to the second level far more frequently to increase yard totals on runs.
Both offer an exceptional cerebral aspect to their games. Garza has to be credited with making some great calls, and leading the offensive line despite all playing for the first time together, starting two rookies, and four new starters total while learning a new system. To make it even more impressive the Bears ranked 10th among all teams in total unblocked pressures according to the calculations of profootballfocus.com. Garza is also a team leader and well regraded member of the team. Still winning teams put sentiment aside, and play the best players.
Another possibility is to move players around. With De La Puente signing a one year league minimum deal with only 100,000 guaranteed and a $65,000 signing bonus one has to assume certain assurances had to have been be made. Especially considering he reportedly chose Chicago over both Detroit, and New Orleans. One could only conclude he’ll be playing somewhere on that offensive line by seasons start. It could be at right guard which would mean moving Kyle Long to one of the tackle spots.
Likely on the right side as Jermon Bushrod is getting paid a lot of money to man the left tackle spot. Most pundits agree Long is an eventual Left tackle in this league as he is a left handed player, so he projects more as a left tackle. For now the Bears probably don’t want to disrupt the flow of the line so they likely will not move Bushrod to the right side even though Long may be actually the better left tackle of the two. It’s also why Garza likely stays at center with De La Puente playing guard.