A new offensive scheme with a ton of new personnel wouldn’t get far without a productive offensive line. So it’s fitting that an old friend has his hands in one of the Chicago Bears’ most significant improvements to date.
The Harry Hiestand effect is real and the proof is in the improved production of an offensive line that has allowed the fewest pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Their 19 pressures allowed are fewer than the Rams (22), Dolphins (26), and Cowboys (27). You know your offensive line is in good shape when it’s keeping company with the Rams and the Cowboys, who have both made significant investments to ensure success in the trenches.
Leading the charge in the pass-protection department is left tackle Charles Leno Jr., whose 88.7 grade from PFF is the second best among all tackles. A few slots over from him on the line is where you’ll find right guard Kyle Long, whose 85.9 pass-block grade makes him the third-highest-graded guard in football. In the middle is Cody Whitehair, who checks in as the 12th-highest-graded pass-blocking center with a 77.7 grade. Each of these three players were on a 2017 Bears offensive line that projected to be among the best in the league before injuries crippled their odds for prosperity.
And to think, this group could get better once rookie James Daniels gets more involved in the offense. Daniels made his debut in Week 4 and put forth an effort as a pass-blocker that earned him an 82.5 grade. The Bears could put Daniels in a time share with Eric Kush at left guard for the time being, but Daniels will be the team’s long-term solution at the position sooner rather than later.
Not impressed? Fine. Just know that Mitch Trubisky completed 19 of 22 passes for 354 yards and six touchdowns in a clean pocket last week. That comes out to an 86.4 percent completion rate and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Yeah, keeping Trubisky clean is a high priority.
This is the type of up-tick in production the Bears hoped to see when they brought Hiestand brought back into the fold nine years after he left the team. Between his stints as the Bears’ Offensive Line Coach, Hiestand coached up stud college football linemen at Notre Dame and Tennessee, so he knows a thing or two about player development.
It’s been a while since the Bears’ offensive line has been a pillar of strength. The revolving door of linemen hasn’t over the years hasn’t inspired many good vibes, but Leno, Long, and Whitehair have stabilized the group at a time when a first-year head coach and second-year quarterback need them the most.
Mitch Trubisky earned every bit of adoration for his six-touchdown performance. And Matt Nagy deserved his share of kudos for a well-called game-plan. But without the stellar performances across the offensive line, both Trubisky and Nagy could have been looking at a different set of press clippings during the bye week.