There weren’t many positives to report from the times the Chicago Bears offense took the field in 2016, but brighter days could be in store if the offensive line takes another significant step toward improvement.
According to Pro Football Focus, Chicago’s offensive line ranked 15th in PFF’s year-end wrap up. This is a much better end result than what was expected of a group Pro Football Focus ranked 30th in the preseason.
As the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys can attest, the strength of a good offensive line can go along way to make a team successful – even when it starts rookies at quarterback and running back.
In fairness, the Bears were the beneficiaries of some luck, most notably when left guard Josh Sitton became available at the end of the preseason after being cut by the Packers. Still, credit the Bears for pouncing on an opportunity to improve their offensive line by handing Sitton a multi-year contract when he hit the open market.
The Bears were also fortunate to get the kind of performance they did out of rookie Cody Whitehair, who made the transition with ease from college tackle as a senior at Kansas State, to being listed as the starting left guard in the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos, to his current spot as the Bears’ starting center.
Adding Sitton and Whitehair to the offensive line mix that featured Pro Bowler Kyle Long returning to his familiar spot at right guard solidified the middle of an offensive line that helped lead Jordan Howard to a Pro Bowl appearance.
On the other hand, the line’s offensive tackles left much to be desired.
Here is a snippet from PFF’s Sam Monson detailing how poorly the Bears’ offensive tackles played:
“The offensive tackle combination of Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie was a different story, however, as the pair combined to surrender 73 total QB pressures and 14 penalties all season, with neither grading well in the run game. Tackle is an area for the Bears to focus on in the offseason, because that interior is already excellent.”
So if you’re a glass half-full kind of reader, the Bears are two tackles away from having one of the best offensive lines in football. Further, they’ve got the kind of cap room and draft pick currency to add impact players at those positions and potentially create one of the NFL’s best offensive lines.