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Time to check in on the o-line in our 11-part Bears positional training camp series.
What you or I think about the Chicago Bears offensive line doesn’t matter, because Bears’ brass feels the unit is serviceable enough to bounce back in 2020. They’re only making one change in the starting line up, and they’re really counting on new o-line coach Juan Castillo to bring this group together.
I would love to see the Bears pluck a stud first-rounder at some point, but it’s not like they haven’t invested heavily in the guys they have. Of the four returning starters two were second-round picks of this regime, and three of the four received some new paper while playing in Chicago.
There’s a good chance the Bears invest another high draft pick in the position next year as they have a relative cheap out on one of the contracts, but for now this the group.
Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie return at the tackles, Cody Whitehair will be manning the center spot again, and James Daniels is back to start at left guard, while newcomer Germain Ifedi has the early lead to be the starter at right guard.
I gave my thoughts on this group in detail in my recent appearance on Robert Schmitz’s Run Pass Opinion YouTube show.
But here’s my in a nutshell version… This group definitely had issues a year ago, the Bears are putting a lot on Castillo to get them and the running game on track, but the five projected starters have the talent to bounce back and play winning football in 2020. A less convoluted run scheme, a more logical marrying of the run to the pass, and better QB play will help these guys out immensely.
Besides these five, I also have free agent pick up Jason Spriggs as a lock. As a spot starter in Green Bay he wasn’t much from 2016 to 2018, but after a year healing up some lingering injuries on injured reserve for the Packers last season he’ll essentially be playing for his NFL life this year. And besides, he’s the only experienced tackle on the roster.
A good bet to make it
Alex Bars showed some nice versatility last preseason, but he was still cut and spent most of the year on the practice squad. An October promotion to the active roster saw him play in five games in 30 total snaps as an extra o-lineman and special teamer. He’s now a couple years removed from his knee injury at Notre Dame, so if his strength can come around to match his technique I think he’ll be the first guard off the bench.
On the bubble
The Bears opened up the season with eight offensive linemen the last two years, but with rosters being expanded to 55 after the initial 53 is set, and with game day rosters expanding to 48 as long as you have 8 o-linemen active, the Bears could roll with a ninth on the main roster each week to ensure they don’t lose the two seventh-rounders they picked this year. Then again, teams can now protect 4 players on their 16-man practice squad, so they’ll have another option to make sure they don’t lose any drafted players.
Basically, with rosters likely to be in flux all year long due to the new COVID-19 protocols, it’s really hard to predict how the Bears will shape things up.
I wish training camp was open to the public this year, because I was looking forward to seeing the rookies, Arlington Hambright and Lachavious Simmons play. My guess is they keep the best one on the active roster and try to slip the other to the practice squad.
The Bears liked Rashaad Coward enough to bring him back after a poor year filling in at right guard, and considering they’ve been coaching him up since being a UDFA defensive lineman in 2017 they want to see the transformation through. His issues all come down to technique and comfort when he’s playing. The best thing for the Bears to do with him is to give him one position to learn and leave him alone, but I think that’ll be on the 2020 practice squad.
Sam Mustipher stuck around on the practice squad all last year after the Bears signed him as a UDFA from Notre Dame. He started his last three years at center for the Fighting Irish, and he looked good in preseason a year ago. He’ll need a big camp to make an impression for a roster spot, but he’ll be back on the practice squad for sure.
I was intrigued by the tape from UDFA Dieter Eiselen from Yale, and I like his chances of working his way into a role on the active roster at some point in his career. He plays with the aggressiveness you want from your linemen and he’s a perfect practice squad prospect.
LSU’s Badara Traore, a UDFA tackle, and Dino Boyd, a UDFA tackle from a year ago that spent some time of their practice squad, round out the o-line hopefuls.