The Chicago Bears’ offensive line seems like it’s in a good place at this point of the team’s offseason training program, but at least one analyst sees protection as a possible problem for the Bears in 2018.
Jim Sannes of Numberfire.com ranks the team’s offensive line 21st in the NFL, but that might be the tip of the iceberg if you take into consideration how some advanced metrics paint Chicago’s pass protection in less than a flattering light.
Sannes highlights the Bears’ ranking 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate as tell-tale signs of the trouble the unit had pass blocking in 2017. And what’s more troubling is that the issues really came to the forefront when Mitch Trubisky took over as the team’s starting quarterback. Beyond that, it’s even more alarming that the problems took place when Kyle Long was in the lineup. The Bears’ sack rate was 8.2 percent when Long played … and 7.2 percent when he was sidelined. Yikes.
It wasn’t all bad for Chicago’s front five. Charles Leno Jr.’s pass-blocking grade checked in among the upper third of tackles by PFF’s standards. Bobby Massie’s pass block grade ranked 42nd among the 81 qualifying tackles, firmly entrenching him in the middle of the pack. Cody Whitehair is only one year removed from allowing 14 pressures as a rookie when he was the team’s full-time center, but permitting 26 pressures last year is a bit of a concern. And should you want to dream on James Daniels’ upside, PFF notes he allowed just 10 pressures on 371 pass blocking snaps at Iowa last season. That’s good stuff.
PFF ranked Chicago’s offensive line as the 11th best in football last season despite the team using 13 different combinations, watching Long get slowed by injuries, and Whitehair suffering through a sophomore slump while trying his hand at three different positions. That group returns all but one player in 2018. Even then, the Bears addressed the loss of Josh Sitton by drafting Daniels in the second round. Still, there is obviously some cause for concern regarding the group tasked with protecting the franchise’s most valuable player.
You’re up, Harry Hiestand. Good luck with all that.