Bears Offensive Line Is Built on Hope More Than Certainty

| July 28th, 2023

While it isn’t the dire situation we saw a year ago, the Chicago Bears have entered training camp with questions along their offensive line.

The Bears made two big investments in their offensive line, signing guard Nate Davis and drafting tackle Darnell Wright, but it’s still worth questioning if that is enough. The Bears will be relying on three unproven players as well as two veterans who need to step forward in 2023, and for this offensive line to compete against the best defensive lines on their schedule they’ll need quite a bit of luck to break their way.

The offensive tackle position could be problematic. The upside of both Wright and left tackle Braxton Jones is apparent — both have everything one could want from a physical standpoint. Wright played well at Tennessee last year and there’s no reason to second-guess the team for picking him. That said, it isn’t unusual for tackles to struggle as rookies.

Teams can usually live with rookie struggles, but Braxton Jones is hardly a proven commodity on the other side. He played well for a fifth-round pick last year, but still wasn’t playing at what most would consider a starting level. In 206 true pass sets — defined by Pro Football Focus as pass plays that exclude plays with fewer than four rushers, play action, screens, short drop backs and time to throw under two seconds — Jones allowed 30 pressures. That’s the 10th most in the league, despite having just 206 snaps in those situations. PFF graded Jones’ pass blocking efficiency in true pass sets 57th out of 60 players with at least 150 true pass sets. He wasn’t even as efficient as Larry Borom was as a rookie, though the upsides of both players aren’t close.

Going into camp without any competition for Jones is certainly a bet on upside and coaching. If it pays off, Ryan Poles and company will look like geniuses. If it doesn’t and Wright goes through typical rookie struggles, the Bears are going to have a major problem.

The concerns aren’t limited to the tackle position though.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,


Three Questions Facing the 2023 Chicago Bears

| May 31st, 2023

Question One. Can they engineer a pass rush?

The Eagles had 70 sacks in 2022. The Bears had 20. This means that on average, the Eagles generated 2.9 more sacks per game. That number is massive and should give fans a clue as to how far this club needs to travel to be a title contender.

Everyone knows the Bears need to add a player or two at the edge position (Floyd, Yannick, etc.) but it’s unlikely the player they add is going to be a dominant player. Those players aren’t still available as free agents in the summer. The Bears have to double that sack total in 2023 if they want to be even a mediocre defense.

Question Two. How long will the new offensive line take to gel?

60% of their starting offensive linemen will be new in 2023, and with Teven Jenkins changing positions, one can easily consider this group 80% new.  How long will Darnell Wright take to get his professional feet wet? How long will it take Jenkins to learn a new position? Can Cody Whitehair stay healthy in the middle and, if not, will Lucas Patrick get the opportunity to show he can play the position when he has a working right thumb? The 2023 offensive line has the potential to be a solid unit. But that may take some time, and the Bears need to make sure the season doesn’t drown as a result of the growing pains.

Question Three. Is DJ Moore the final piece of “the Fields puzzle”?

Justin Fields’ strength as a passer is the deep ball. DJ Moore dominates deep.

Fields has struggled with intermediate and underneath passing, primarily because his receivers haven’t separated and that has forced him to throw into tight, contested windows. Moore separates, even from the best corners, and should be able to make the shallow cross a dominant feature of this offense. If he provides what the Bears believe he will, a breakout season from the quarterback likely.

Tagged: ,


Dannehy: Poles Playing Dangerous Game In Trenches

| March 23rd, 2023

Generally speaking, the best way to create a good offensive line is to invest resources into it. That’s what makes Ryan Poles’ decisions up front so confusing.

When Poles was hired, much was made of his work to help rebuild Kansas City’s offensive line as it went from a unit that couldn’t keep Patrick Mahomes on his feet to one of the best on the league. That rebuild included some major investments, including a trade for Orlando Brown Jr., a contract that made Joe Thuney among the highest-paid guards in the NFL and a second-round pick spent on Creed Humphrey. In one offseason, the Chiefs made their offensive line great again.

So, why won’t emphasize the position in Chicago?

The reasoning for not signing Brown to the Bears was sound. The Bears like to get their offensive tackles in space, getting to the second level of the defense. Brown isn’t the most mobile tackle.

But their hardline stance on Mike McGlinchey is confusing.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,


Super Bowl Teams Prove Importance of Applying & Denying Pressure

| February 3rd, 2023

It isn’t a coincidence that the teams playing in the Super Bowl are among the best at getting pressure on the opposing quarterback and keeping their quarterbacks clean.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ defense put up video game numbers, finishing with 70 sacks during the regular season, taking quarterbacks down on 11.2 percent of their drop backs, according to Pro-Football-Reference. The Eagles had the most sacks in a season since the 1987 Bears (also 70). The 1984 Bears hold the single season record with 72 and the 1989 Minnesota Vikings totaled 71. Four Philadelphia defensive linemen had more than 10 sacks, led by 2022 free agent addition Haason Reddick’s 16.

Who was second in the league in sacks? The Kansas City Chiefs, 55, a total that would typically lead the league. The Chiefs also had a dominant individual as defensive tackle Chris Jones managed 15.5 sacks. The rest of their pressure was spread out across the defensive roster.

But the teams also kept their quarterbacks relatively clean.

The Eagles were eighth in the league in pressure percentage allowed at 17.7%, while the Chiefs were 16th at 19.4%. It must be noted, however, that both teams have quarterbacks who hold onto the ball. Kansas City tied for the league-high with 2.6 seconds in the pocket, while Philly came in at 2.4.

The Bears have a lot of work to do.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,


Dannehy: Lack of Action on OL Incredibly Risky for Ryan Poles

| May 26th, 2022

The 2022 Chicago Bears plan to run the ball and play strong defense, but the lack of upgrades along the offensive line could make that hard to do. While the weapons surrounding Justin Fields aren’t ideal, one can certainly make arguments for Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney as being high-level players at their positions. Add in David Montgomery, Byron Pringle and Velus Jones Jr. and, well, you get the argument.

But the offensive line? Ryan Poles has left the team in a tricky position.

The most glaring hole on the entire roster right now is right guard where Sam Mustipher could potentially start. Nothing against Mustipher — who showed flashes of being a pretty good center in 2020 — but he has never played the position before and doesn’t seem to be a fit in any way. The team did sign Dakota Dozier, a player who didn’t even make the Vikings roster last year. (And that was a bad offensive line too.) The other options are rookies who were taken late on day three.

Poles can’t even claim to disagree with the assessment of the right guard position. He signed Ryan Bates to an offer sheet, only to revert back to ignoring the position once the Bills matched it.

The most likely bet is that the player who starts the season at right guard for the Bears isn’t on the roster. They have to be hoping that either a viable player becomes available, or an existing player lowers his price tag. Otherwise, we’re looking at flat out negligence and it’s the worst kind of negligence because it could get the team’s young quarterback hurt.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , ,


Training Camp Diary: Addressing Three Fallacies When it Comes to Starting Justin Fields in LA

| August 11th, 2021

Fallacy #1. The Soft Landing Spot

Where did this premise come from?

“No, Jeff, you can’t start Justin Fields in the opener because the opener is against the Rams on the road. And the Rams are very good.”

It’s not the landing spot that is soft. It is this mode of thinking from fans and media. What kind of a message would that send to the kid? “Hey Justin, we think you’re ready to be our quarterback but we’re going to wait until the bad teams. We don’t think you’re ready for the good ones yet.”

Rookie quarterbacks struggle. Aaron Rodgers was a mechanical nightmare. John Elway tried to take a snap from his guard. Terry Bradshaw got benched. Troy Aikman went 0-11. Peyton Manning threw 28 picks. Josh Allen looked like he was destined for the CFL.

You’re not going to prevent a rookie quarterback from struggling by cherry-picking his opponents. The Lions are just as capable as the Rams of showing Fields a coverage disguise he hasn’t seen before. Rookie quarterbacks struggle. And that’s okay.

Fallacy #2. The Unhealthy Offensive Line

Deshaun Watson has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league the last three seasons. In those three seasons he was sacked 62, 44 and 49 times. He’s had one thousand-yard rusher. The only thing that’s made Houston’s rushing attack seem productive is Watson himself. His team mortgaged their entire future to attain…an offensive lineman.

Russell Wilson has been complaining about his offensive line, and rightfully so, for five years. Josh Allen is often running for his life (and making plays on the run) in Buffalo. They were two of the five best quarterbacks in the league last year.


Because they’re great. And the great ones produce. The great ones make the players around them better. And if the Bears are going to wait for their offensive line to be at full strength before handing the reins over to Fields, there’s no telling how long that wait might be. This is the NFL. People are injured constantly.

If Fields is the guy, make him the guy. Let him learn how to throw it away under pressure. Let him learn when to take off with his legs and when to sit in the pocket and absorb contact. Let him learn how to release the football quickly when the offensive line is struggling to stay healthy.

The Bears need to see the imperfections of this situation not as impediments to development, but as teaching tools.

Fallacy #3. The Veteran’s Summer Performance

Nothing Andy Dalton does this summer should have ANY influence on the team’s decision at quarterback.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,


ATM: Improved Line Play Key to Bears Finish

| December 10th, 2019

The Chicago Bears will go only as far as Mitch Trubisky takes them, but they need the offensive line to hold up so they can see exactly what the quarterback can do.

The line play has ranged from awful to mediocre until the last two games when we’ve seen holes opening up. It certainly appears that the unit is beginning to come together, which will be important for both the immediate and longterm future of the club.

Trubisky earned all the headlines after his dynamic performance against Dallas, but lost in the shuffle was the dominant performance by the offensive line. They didn’t just get the better of one of the best defensive lines in the league. They bullied them in what was unquestionably the best performance the Bears blockers have had all year — and maybe in several seasons.

That was the second straight game in which the Bears controlled the line of scrimmage. Trubisky was hurried just six times and hit once on Thanksgiving, according to Pro-Football-Reference, as the Bears also gave their runners 40 yards before contact on 23 attempts. Compare that to a week earlier when Bears rushers had just 25 yards before contact on 26 attempts. (The advanced data for the Cowboys game won’t be available until Wednesday.)

The difference was seen in Trubisky too. While he wasn’t pressured that much against the Giants, it was enough to throw him off as he had 10 of what PFR deems to be bad throws, compared to just four against Detroit and four against Dallas.

The Green Bay Packers know how much pressure impacts Trubisky and they blitzed him 17 times in Week One. They got home a fair amount, sacking him five times, hitting him five more, and hurrying him seven times.

Trubisky was bad that game, but he didn’t have much of a chance to be good.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,


ATM: Offensive Improvement Starts Up Front

| September 25th, 2019

One of the most important assessments Ryan Pace made this off-season was that the running backs – and not the offensive line – were to fault for the running game’s struggles in 2018. Through most of three quarters Monday night, he looked dead wrong.

Then one possession clinched the game and provided hope that the offensive line can regain the form it showed in 2018. The Bears had run for just 50 yards. Their defense was tired after forcing yet another turnover. They didn’t just need a score, they needed time.

The guys up front came through.

David Montgomery ran for eight yards on the first play. Four on the next. He looked bottled up on the third play, but was able to find a hole after a cutback for 25. After a pass for eight yards to keep the drive alive on a third-and-five play, the Bears were able to drive to the 20 to get inside the range of an injured Eddy Pineiro who clinched the game with a 38-yard field goal.

Not All Trubisky

While most of the negative attention early in the season has been focused on quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the offensive line had been arguably the worst part of the team through two weeks.

Coach Matt Nagy took a lot of heat for not calling more running plays in Week 1, but the Bears weren’t getting any push. The same was mostly true in Week 2, as the offense averaged 3.8 yards per carry outside of one explosive run.

Read More …



Bears Need Improved OL Play to Reach Potential

| July 6th, 2016


The Bears have plenty of weapons at the skill positions and a terrific quarterback, but their offense won’t take a big step if their offensive line isn’t better than it was a year ago.

On paper, the Bears line should be significantly better. They lost Matt Slauson, but Kyle Long moving back to guard, combined with Cody Whitehair or Ted Larsen have to be better than Vlad Ducasse and whoever else they played last year. At his worst Bobby Massie was as good as Long was at tackle last year and, over the last 10 games last year, he was actually pretty good. Charles Leno Jr. and Hroniss Grasu should be better with experience.

But outside of Long, who should be expected to return to his stellar form at guard, there’s the possibility it all goes the other way.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , ,


Why I’ve Got Questions About the Bears Offensive Line

| May 6th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 11.11.31 AM

Forget about Matt Slauson being thrown into the dumpster behind A&P well-before his expiration date. That’s old news and I’ve promised those in the Twitterverse I’ll refrain from using the words “Matt” and “Slauson” in succession any longer. To play offensive football the way John Fox wishes it to be played, the Bears don’t need a mediocre offensive line. They need a good offensive line to be a playoff team and a great line to be a championship contender. Right now? They have more questions than answers.

Question 1. Is Charles Leno going to get better?

Leno was fine in 2015. Not good. Fine. The organization believes he can be the answer at left tackle but by no means is he a certainty to even finish the season protecting Jay Cutler’s blindside. Many of Leno’s struggles in 2015 were masked by Cutler’s ability to make things happen under duress. But how long will Cutler stay on the field if he’s constantly under duress?

Question 2. Is Cody Whitehair as good as I think he is?

If he is, the Bears have a two contract starter at guard. But he’s a rookie. And rookies, regardless of my opinion, are crap shoots.

Question 3. Who is playing center?

Is it Hroniss Grasu? Does Manny “Being Manny” Ramirez win the job from him in camp? Neither is going to be challenging for an All Pro spot anytime soon.

Also, if Ramirez wins the center job, is Grasu valuable anywhere else along the line? Can he sub in at guard?

Question 4. Can the right side of the line stay healthy?

The Bears right guard and tackle are one of the team’s strengths, especially in the run game. But what happens if one of them misses substantial time? The Bears have little depth to cover Long and Massie. (Don’t mention Ted Larsen to me with a straight face.)

It might be the team’s most important unit. And right now it contains the most unknowns.

Tagged: , , , , , ,