You would be hard-pressed to find Chicago Bears offensive lineman who has been more consistent, reliable, and productive as left tackle Charles Leno Jr. And as the Bears head into the 2018 season, Leno would like to add some more descriptive terms to his résumé.
“One thing I’m going to do personally is become a leader for the offense side of the ball,” Leno said on a Bears All-Access program on 670 The Score, via Mark Grote. “I think it’s time for me to do that, step up to the plate.”
I’m intrigued by the idea of Leno stepping into being a mentor when he isn’t protecting Mitch Trubisky’s backside, as the development of second-round pick James Daniels will be key to the Bears’ success in 2018.
The Bears drafted Daniels, one of college football’s top center prospects, with the intent on moving him to left guard. Together, the hope is that Leno and Daniels will form a formidable tandem on the left side that can protect Trubisky and clear holes for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen when they are running the ball.
Leno was a seventh-round pick and started his career as a right tackle, so he knows a thing or two about moving positions. And while Leno admits that Daniels has made some rookie mistakes early on, it sounds like the Iowa product is picking up what the coaching staff is putting down.
It should go without saying, but Leno already has a lot on his plate. As the Bears’ left tackle, he has the tall task of protecting Trubisky’s blind side – which was something he did quite well in 2017. Leno earned a 79.5 pass blocking grade ranked 22nd among the 81 qualifying offensive tackles on Pro Football Focus’ leaderboard. Leno’s 80.4 overall grade ranks as PFF’s 15th best, and it’s not all because of pass protection. It turns out that Leno is also a superb run blocker, too. His 82.3 grade ranks 14th among all tackles and was the best among tackles who play in the NFC North. That’s high praise, considering David Bakhtiari (88.9) was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded tackle in 2017.
Not only is Leno still young (he doesn’t turn 27 until October), he is still getting better. he’s improved as a pass blocker in each of his last three seasons, a stretch of years in which he has hasn’t missed a single offensive snap. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a run of 2,887 plays.
There is something to be said about the reliability and durability Leno brings to the table on a weekly basis. And if he adds team leader and mentor to the list of terms that best describe him, the Bears – and their offense – will likely be much better for it.