The Chicago Bears’ first training camp practice open to the public arrives on July 27, and we’ll be there! But with training camp rapidly approaching and the team’s August 8 debut at home against the Panthers around the corner, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
Today: Offensive line
The Starters: Charles Leno Jr. (left tackle, 75.3 PFF grade), Cody Whitehair (left guard, 70.4 grade), James Daniels (center, 63.3 grade), Kyle Long (right guard, 62.2 grade), Bobby Massie (right tackle, 71.2 grade)
The Backups: Alex Bars, Blake Blackmar, Rashard Coward, Ted Larsen, Joe Lowery, Cornelius Lucas, Jordan McCray, Sam Mustipher, Marquez Tucker
Potential Training Camp Star: Alex Bars would have been a middle-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft had he not suffered ACL and MCL injuries in his left knee that cut his senior season short. Bars will be working his way back from those injuries in camp and is something of a wild card at this juncture, but is also a prospect who checks some notable boxes. While at Notre Dame, Bars started at multiple positions and was even coached by current Bears OL Coach Harry Hiestand when he was molding future NFL offensive lineman in South Bend. Bars isn’t going to start any time soon, but he could be that developmental swing tackle who grows into a starter over time. Let’s keep an eye on him.
We Really Like: One of the most intriguing developments this offseason was the offensive line position swap that sent James Daniels and Cody Whitehair back to their natural positions. Whitehair was drafted as a guard in 2016, but shifted to center out of necessity. Daniels was selected in 2018 after being a standout center at Iowa, but slid over to left guard because the Bears were set with Whitehair at center. At some point, the powers that be at Halas Hall concluded that Whitehair (a darn good center) is better off at left guard and that Daniels (a steady left guard) was best suited to be the team’s long-term center. As a fan of stability along the offensive line, these moves vibe with me.
We Might Be Worried About: This position group gives me the least to be worried about, which speaks volumes about the collection of talent. But if I have to be concerned about something, it’s probably Kyle Long’s health. Long hasn’t played a full 16-game slate since 2015 and is about to enter his age 31 season. When Long is healthy, he is one of football’s best lineman. But when he is unavailable, filling in for someone with his skills and leadership can be a challenge. Hopefully, that’s not something the Bears have to worry about this season.
2019 Forecast: The folks at Pro Football Focus have nothing but love for the Bears’ offensive line. Back in January, they raved about Daniels (who earned All-Rookie honors from the site) and the this group as whole, ranking it among the top half in all of football. PFF also put some respect on the name of left tackle Charles Leno Jr., applauding his individual improvements and placing the Bears’ offensive line among the 10 best in football.
Success starts in the trenches. So to see the Bears’ offensive line coming in among the best, it surely feels like a sign that the entire offense is in a position to take off and do big things in 2019.