Solid expectations for Bears O-line in 2021
|Monday, August 9, 2021, 11:33 AM- -|
With training camp officially underway, it has been nice to see the Bears back on the field as they gear up for their first preseason game this weekend. While Chicago was one of the more aggressive teams this offseason in terms of adding depth pieces, two positions continue to be the main focus for this team.
As usual, it all comes down to the quarterback position where Andy Dalton and Justin Fields will battle it out all preseason long. While there is a shot Fields opens the year as the starter, it would take a catastrophic meltdown for Dalton not to be named the starter to open the season. That doesn't mean Dalton remains the starter all season, but most likely the week one starter.
The other position that Bears fans are hoping trends upward is the offensive line, which has been an issue. As good of talent as the Bears have on both sides of the ball if the offensive line can't live up to expectations, get used to mediocre offensive results. However, if there were a chance for the Bears to turn things around, this would be it.
A big reason for the Bears feeling confident this season is the addition of second-round pick Teven Jenkins. A first-rounder on most draft boards, Jenkins fell to the second round, and the Bears couldn't pass him up. Graded a 92.0 in pro football focus in 2020, Jenkins will immediately step into the left tackle position and give the Bears a young lineman to build around.
Next to him and anchoring the left guard position appears to be Cody Whitehair. Ranked as the seventh-best center last season, Whitehair will move over to guard this season as the Bears hope for similar results. His versatility on the line will be tremendous for Chicago as he could move back to center if he struggles at guard. However, should he succeed at the guard position, the Bears just made their offensive line stronger without acquiring too many pieces.
With Whitehair moving over to guard, the Bears needed to address the Center position where Sam Mustipher takes over. Graded as the 28th best center last season, this will be one of the most significant question marks on the offensive line. From a statistical standpoint, Whitehair was miles better than Mustipher, but adding him gives the Bears more versatility and depth.
Shifting to the right side of the line and you will have James Daniels getting the nod at right guard. A backup for the Bears the past few seasons, Daniels has plenty of starts under his belt, just not enough to be considered a first stringer. Now, Daniels has been given the keys to be the first team right guard, and he needs to prove he is worth it.
Should he fail, look for rookie Larry Borom to be a name to watch as he was getting plenty of first-team reps in mini camp before getting hurt. Ideally, the Bears would love to stay away from starting two rookies, but it may end up happening and could be a great thing for this team. The final starter on the offensive line heading into the season would be right tackle Germain Ifedi.
Signed as a free agent last season, Ifedi had a decent season in 2020 despite the results not showing up. He graded out as the 35th best right tackle in the game out of 80. That may not be great, but that still has him ranked in the top half of the league. Ifedi has had moments of greatness, but he has struggled to find consistency at times. Consistency from him will be the key.
Along with these men, look for newcomers Elijah Wilkinson and undrafted free agents Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and Dareuan Parker to battle it out for a roster spot. Developing offensive linemen is always a patient process, and the Bears will need to be patient with Jenkins. However, having a lot of young linemen who you can develop bodes well for the future of this team as you can create the offensive line you would like.
The one thing the Bears offensive line does have going for them is a great inside trio of Whitehair, Daniels, and Mustipher. Not only is that going to be the strength of this team early while Ifedi and Jenkins come into their own, but look for the Bears to utilize that strength often as they want to run the football.
Fans have seen how good Whitehair can be, while Daniels could be on the verge of breaking out this season now that he will be a full-time starter.
Mustipher is the wild card in this situation as he played well down the stretch last season and is looking to elevate his game this year. If the Bears can avoid missed opportunities and build off how they finished down the stretch, this unit will be much better in 2021, which could go a long way in the Bears overall success.