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Beekman battles for left guard starting spot
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/22/2009 10:35 PM

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Although he has been listed on the depth chart as the starter for both preseason games, Josh Beekman has watched unrestricted free agent Frank Omiyale open both games at left guard - where Beekman started 16 games last season.

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said no decision has been made as far as who will start the regular-season opener, and that Beekman has not fallen out of favor, but Omiyale seems to have gained the upper hand.

"He knows how we feel about him," Turner said of Beekman. "He's a smart guy, a very mature guy and he's a team guy. He's got a good head on his shoulders. The best guy is going to play. Whoever is going to help us win is going to play left guard."

Beekman has also been getting work as the backup to Olin Kreutz at center.

"The coaches said it would help me, showing the versatility," said Beekman, who played both positions in the same game several times at Boston College. "I think it just helps you overall with the game. If you know what the center's supposed to do and you know what the guard's supposed to do, it just helps you when you're playing in there and trying to anticipate everything and how the offense should run."

Beekman stepped in at center in the second quarter and moved to left guard in the third quarter.

Numbers game: The Bears are deep enough at linebacker that they could cut one or two who wind up playing for another team.

Seven-year veteran Hunter Hillenmeyer would rather not leave, but he's fighting for playing time. Pisa Tinoisamoa, Nick Roach and Jamar Williams have been listed as tri-starters at strong-side linebacker, the position where Hillenmeyer started the previous 41/2 years until midway through last season when a thumb injury allowed Roach to take his spot. Now Hillenmeyer is the backup to Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker.

"I want to be in Chicago, I don't want there to be any doubt about that," Hillenmeyer said. "But the better you play, the more likely that you're assuring yourself that you're going to be (playing) somewhere. None of the linebackers on our team are in any danger of not (playing) somewhere. I don't want to (leave). I've got a life here, I love it here, but in the NFL, there's such a small window, you've got to do what you can to maximize your time in it."

Safety first: Al Afalava, a sixth-round pick out of Oregon State, got his second straight start at strong safety, because Kevin Payne, who is normally the No. 1 strong safety, moved to free safety in place of injured Danieal Manning (hamstring), who also missed the preseason opener.

Afalava has been impressing coaches since early in training camp.

"He does have a look about him," coach Lovie Smith said. "To play safety you need that. But at the same time he's confident in his ability. After you've gone through some practices and now you've got a game under your belt, it even picks up more.

"He is a quick learner. He has great instincts and good ability too."

Afalava had 3 first-half tackles.

Missing from action: Cornerbacks Charles Tillman (back, physically-unable-to-perform list) and Zack Bowman (hamstring), safety Danieal Manning (hamstring), linebacker Nick Roach (concussion), guard Tyler Reed (knee surgery) and defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (concussion) did not dress Saturday night.

The Giants were missing six starters, including guards Rich Seubert and Chris Snee, linebackers Antonio Pierce and Michael Boley, cornerback Aaron Ross and safety Kenny Phillips.