The Chicago Bears are going to head into the 2013 NFL season with four new starters along the offensive line. Center Roberto Garza will remain the starter as he heads into the final year of his contract. Phil Emery made it a priority to overhaul the offensive line during the off-season and he hopes that by adding Jermon Bushrod at left tackle and shifting J'Marcus Webb both slots will be improved. The Bears added Matt Slauson in free agency and drafted Kyle Long to take over as the likely starting right guard.
Perhaps the weakest link on the offensive line last year was center Roberto Garza who wound up rated as the 30th overall by ProFootballFocus. The Bears haven't added any real center talent since they drafted Josh Beekman in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Garza was the long time starting RG before being shifted inside to center to replace Olin Kreutz. Garza now heads into his third year as the Bears starter, and likely doesn't face any real competition.
Edwin Williams is the backup center with only UDFA competition in the mix to unseat either Garza or Williams. The best asset Garza brings to the table is he's healthy and seemingly never gets hurt. That type endurance can't be underestimated, and is likely the only reason Garza will remain the starter. The Bears will undoubtedly be looking for his replacement in the near future.
Until the future comes around however, what can Garza bring to the table? He'll be learning a completely new offense, be working with another offensive line coach and trying to remain the stabilizing force on a relatively young offensive line. Other than the intangibles, Garza doesn't show as though he has a lot of gas left in the tank. He doesn't get a very good push in the run game and usually wins on angles rather than strength.
In pass protection Garza shows good awareness but isn't strong enough to anchor very well nor is he quick enough to cut off players who get into the gap. What helps keep Garza in place, is the fact that very few teams run a true 3-4 defense with a true zero-technique nose guard. The Packers are supposed to be a 3-4 team, and Clay Matthews is listed as a linebacker, but he often lines up like a defensive end. Additionally the Packers don't often put B.J. Raji head up over the center in the true zero-technique sense. He plays the role of a defensive tackle either as the 3-technique or a 1-technique. So Garza can hide his flaws behind the fact that he rarely has to block a player that's lined up over his nose.
The change for the Bears likely comes next year with Garza in the final year of his contract. He'll be 35 at the start of the 2014 season, meaning he's essentially at the end of his tenure in Chicago. The obvious hope is Garza's age and lack of remaining ability isn't completely exploited this season. With the Bears moving away from a running scheme that relies on an inside zone and power based blocking schemes Garza's flaws should be shielded for his last year in Chicago.