Dear 2017 NFL season, thanks for reminding us that nothing is certain, especially in football.
Take the Chicago Bears’ offensive line for example. It was expected and projected to be one of the best in the league this year, but it might be down three starters and a top reserve in their season finale against the Minnesota Vikings.
Indeed, the entire right side of the Bears’ offensive line was held out of Wednesday’s practice, as guard Josh Sitton (ankle) and tackle Bobby Massie (knee) were sidelined due to injuries. Of course, the backups aren’t much healthier, as Bradley Sowell was limited with a back injury, and Tom Compton was a full participant for the first time since suffering a concussion in Week 15. This is where depth comes into play and where the final game in 2017 can serve as an audition for the 2018 line.
And in the case of Cameron Lee and Brandon Greene, the Bears could get an extended look at a pair of former practice squad players in Week 17 with their eyes firmly locked on the future.
Greene was promoted to the 53-man roster prior to the team’s Week 16 game against the Cleveland Browns, but didn’t actually play. The hope is that the 6-foot-5, 295-pound Georgia native can use the offseason to grow into the sort of player who can back up both tackle spots next season. That’s quite a leap for someone who was playing tight end at this time in 2016, but it’s an experiment worth exploring.
Lee made his professional debut on Sunday and held his own in 20 snaps at guard against a pretty stout defensive line when right tackle Bobby Massie was sidelined with a knee injury. With Kyle Long and Josh Sitton battling injuries in each of the last two seasons, developing a guard who could play on both sides could be beneficial to an offensive line that plays its best when Cody Whitehair is at center.
As you probably know, the Bears have used nine different offensive linemen in 2017, including eight different starters – and that’s not quite what we envisioned when the line was considered one of tthe top-5 units entering the year.
And worse yet, things start to get really hazy if you look too far beyond this season. Sitton and Massie will be in the final years of their respective free agent deals next year, center Hroniss Grasu is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and Long will go into his second straight training camp having dealt with a season-ending injury that necessitated surgery.
I suppose we’ll cross this bridge when we get there, but let’s also hope for the best in week 17. I know one game isn’t enough time to solve the puzzle for next season, but a solid performance from some unexpected contributors would be a nice thing to see.