As expected, the Chicago Bears finally appear to have added a free-agent guard after agreeing to terms with Chilo Rachal, who had yet to be linked to the Bears. After looking into his career history, I decided to let his play speak for itself by reviewing his snaps during the 2011 season.
Under first year head coach Jim Harbaugh, Rachal started at right guard for the 49ers during their first three games when they hosted the Seahawks and Cowboys before going on the road versus the Bengals. During the third game with the Bengals, he was benched, but his replacement was arguably worse. I wasn't the only one who noticed it either. This, combined with what I saw of him during my review, makes me think his benching could be more about a personality/attitude conflict rather than it being all about performance. Later in the season, Rachal came in for his replacement, who was hurt, and played most of the Harbaugh bowl on the road versus the formidable Baltimore Ravens.
The thing I love about analyzing linemen is that you have to go to the tape to do it. There are barely any statistics available to cloud your perception of what you see from their game day performance. Just watch the “tape” and trust what you see.
When I watch the 2011 “tape” on Rachal, I see a big athletic lineman who plays aggressively and looks to make contact throughout the whistle. He's quick and agile enough to provide help to his fellow linemen in pass blocking situations while adjusting to pickup up a penetrating blitzer. His athleticism also helps him recover from lost blocks. He's quick on his feet while pulling and looks to strike anything along his path. When he uses his hands well, he can deliver a good pop on his target.
His main weaknesses that jump out to me are that he gets caught playing too high at times and his hand technique needs to improve in the passing game. He is a big guy at 6'5” and though he's athletic enough to get low in his stance, he lets defenders get underneath his pads at times thereby allowing penetration. Having poor hand technique only makes playing high worse. He gets his hands up too early at times without striking his target which allows the defender to knock his hands down before they're ever engaged. When that happens, defenders can slip by him with ease.
The Early Verdict
You can't coach size, athleticism, nor temperament. At age 26, after coming out as an underclassman and having played for three coaches in his four year career, it's easy to see why the Bears are taking a shot at helping Rachal reach his NFL potential. He still has all the tools that made him the first guard selected in the 2008 NFL draft, even if he hasn't had the most stable environment to mature as an NFL player. If Mike Tice can clean up his hand technique, I could see Rachal earning a starting job, possibly at left guard. He plays with a level of aggressiveness that Bears fans would enjoy. At bare minimum, he's a young guard with starting experience that can provide depth at guard and tackle.
Overall, I'd say this is a good pickup with the potential for it to be great. Rachal should come in highly motivated, feeling very fortunate to have his second and likely best shot to finally deliver on the promise of his potentital.