ORLANDO, Fla. -- I realize we've been a little light on Chicago-related posts this week, so I made sure to start my NFC coaches breakfast at the table of Bears coach Lovie Smith. We spent part of the time trying to pin him down on the positions of a number of new and incumbent players, and I also asked him how he planned to utilize Greg Olsen in a scheme that has usually ignored tight ends.
I'll get to Olsen a bit later. Olsen has already gotten plenty of attention for the uncertainty surrounding his 2010 role, but there are other players and position groups that -- for me, at least -- carry similar questions.
One of the primary areas is at offensive line, where Smith would name only three starters: Left tackle Chris Williams, center Olin Kreutz and right guard Roberto Garza. I left Wednesday's breakfast feeling strongly that Frank Omiyale will be moved to right tackle, while a number of young players will battle for the left guard position.
Officially, Smith said the Bears still have multiple options and that he's going to "let it all play out." But when we asked about Omiyale, he said: "Right now, if he ends up being our right tackle, it's a good thing. But going into it, we're not going to say he is for sure the right tackle."
When pressed, Smith admitted he hasn't told Omiyale his plans and implied he didn't want to speak publicly about it before he does.
You might think this is an awful lot of discussion about a right tackle, but I think everyone who watched the Bears last season knows they'll need significantly better play on their offensive line to make Mike Martz's offense work this season. Omiyale was a disaster at left guard in 2009, and he was a right tackle at Carolina before signing with the Bears.
While I'm pretty confident Omiyale will play right tackle, I think even Smith doesn't know where new defensive end Julius Peppers is going to end up -- right end or left end. Elite pass-rushers typically line up on the right side, capitalizing on a right-handed quarterback's blind side, but Peppers has played more frequently on the left in his career and Smith sounded intrigued by the possibility of playing a match-up game based on weekly opponents.
"We could just lock him in to the left and let him go against the right tackle," Smith said. "And he's had some success there, and that's good. But to answer your question, we're going to let him play both. He's done both, and we'll try to find ways to get him 1-on-1, which is important for us. ... He doesn't really have a preference. I've seen him be dominant from both sides. It's a lot of options that he's given us right now."
Most defensive linemen need more positional certainty, but Peppers has proved he can play both sides at an elite level. The only trick is having someone to play left end if Peppers is on the right side. Current right end Alex Brown hasn't done that in his career, but Smith also made a point about his excitement level for veteran Mark Anderson. He also said the Bears plan to install Israel Idonije as full-time defensive end rather than use him as a swing end/tackle.
"I'd like to see [Idonije] lock in and be more of a defensive end and see exactly how good he can become," Smith said.
More in a bit.