The Chicago Bears’ first training camp practice open to the public arrives on July 21 and we’ll be there, literally. But with training camp rapidly approaching and the team’s August 2 debut at the Hall of Fame Game around the corner, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
Today: Offensive tackles
The Starters: Charles Leno Jr. (80.4 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2018), Bobby Massie (69.9)
The Reserves: Matt McCants, Dejon Allen, Bradley Sowell
Potential Training Camp Star: Bradley Sowell has 84 career games (and 23 starts) under his belt and could be someone who pushes Bobby Massie for his starting spot if he falters at any point this summer. Massie has missed just two games since being signed in 2016 and has been a serviceable starter on a rebuilding squad, but good might not be enough if better is to be expected. There is some hope that a new approach from a new position coach will help Massie reach his potential, and that’s quite possible. But I wouldn’t rule out Sowell making a run for a starting job, especially since he signed a two-year deal in the offseason.
We Really Like: Dejon Allen has some sleeper potential, though he seems to be the type who would be stashed and developed on the practice squad. Allen didn’t get much national shine because he played his college ball at Hawaii, but made the most of his opportunities. The 6-3, 290-pound project lineman was a second-team All-Mountain West performer in 2016 in his first season as a full-time left tackle in 2016, then earned first-team honors a year later. Impressive stuff. Allen has some prospect pedigree as a top-40 interior lineman prospect coming out of high school in 2013 and has college experience at tackle, guard, and center. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein favorably compared Allen to ex-Bear Roberto Garza, a lineman who thrived under Harry Hiestand.
We Might Be Worried About: As an offensive lineman who can play several positions on the line, Sowell is pretty much the perfect swing tackle. But if he were to earn a starting spot, the depth behind him is questionable at best. Any team that loses a starting tackle is going to be in trouble, but I’m not sure this Bears team is in a position to feel good about things if something unfortunate happened.
2018 Forecast: Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. probably has another solid year ahead of him. And if he does, that probably means Mitch Trubisky will follow suit. Leno signed a big-money extension before the 2017 season started and put forth his best season, at least by Pro Football Focus’ grading standards. In 2016, Leno was a surprisingly strong pass blocker … and then followed that by doing even better in that area in 2017. PFF’s grading scale aside, Leno looked the part of a reliable starting left tackle. Leno isn’t a mauler and he isn’t among the elite at the position, but he is worthwhile starter who has exceeded our expectations. He says he is ready to take on a leadership role, and we’re looking forward to seeing how that goes for him.