The Chicago Bears’ offensive line was supposed to be a strength entering the 2017 season, but injuries (and penalties, among other things) have taken their toll through the first four weeks of the season.
Indeed, PFF’s Sam Monson ranks each of the NFL’s offensive lines based on pass blocking efficiency, and things haven’t been great for the Bears so far. In fact, the group’s pass blocking collectively ranks 27th – only the Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, and Houston Texans have a lower efficiency grade than the Bears’ (72.0). And save for the Colts, those offensive lines are tasked with the responsibility of protecting some high-end quarterbacks – including Texans rookie Deshaun Watson.
Monson adds that the Bears offensive line has allowed 55 pressures on 149 passing snaps here in 2017. And allowing the quarterback to be pressured at a 36.9 percent clip isn’t going to get it done … especially not with a rookie about to make his NFL debut.
The biggest concern on the line, however, isn’t on the edge with tackles Charles Leno Jr. or Bobby Massie. Instead, it’s Cody Whitehair’s play – which has been split between center and both guard spots – that has been troublesome through the first four weeks.
Whitehair owns a 12.0 pass block grade from PFF, which makes him the lowest-graded pass blocker in football among 171 qualifying linemen. This is a significant step back from a player who was a breakout star as a rookie. Perhaps some newfound stability at a position in which he thrived as a rookie will bring improvement moving forward. If you’ll recall, Whitehair didn’t even spend that much time at center during the preseason, instead spending a chunk of time at left guard in place of then-injured guard Kyle Long while Hroniss Grasu stepped in at center.
But to be fair, this is an offensive line that has been ravaged by injuries to the point where the team has played five different offensive line combinations in four games. The Bears’ rotating lineups have featured two different centers (Cody Whitehair, Grasu), four different left guards (Whitehair, Tom Compton, Bradley Sowell, Josh Sitton), and three different right guards (Whitehair, Sitton, Long). And while every team suffers through injuries, the ones suffered by the Bears along the offensive line have been among the most significant.
As it stands, Whitehair, Leno Jr., and Massie are the only Bears offensive linemen to play 100 percent of the line’s snaps this season. Hopefully, this trio and the two guards and the return of the team’s starting guards will be able to put this slow start behind them and collectively improve in front of their new quarterback. If not, we might be in store for a long rest of the season.