Training camp is open! And there’s a certain buzz surrounding the Chicago Bears as they prepare for the 2021 season with workouts and practices at Halas Hall. So with camp in full swing and the preseason approaching, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
Left Tackle: Teven Jenkins
• 2020 stats: 92.0 grade from Pro Football Focus while at Oklahoma State in 2020.
Left Guard: Cody Whitehair
• 2020 stats: 75.0 grade from PFF (7th of 36 centers)
Center; Sam Mustipher
• 2020 stats: 59.5 grade from PFF (28th of 36 centers)
Right Guard: James Daniels
• 2020 stats: Did not play enough games to qualify for leaderboard
Right Tackle: Germain Ifedi
• 2020 stats: 65.5 grade from PFF (35th of 80 guards in 2020)
The New Guys:
Chicago found traditional free agents (Elijah Wilkinson), undrafted free agents (Tyrone Wheatley Jr., Dareuan Parker), and draft picks (Jenkins, Larry Borom) to bring fresh faces into the linemen huddle. We could drone on about how the Bears could’ve done more. But for now, it’s worth highlighting that Chicago used two draft picks to address offensive line needs.
Don’t Forget About:
Lachavious Simmons and Arlington Hambright were seventh-round picks in 2020. But it was Alex Bars getting starting reps down the stretch. Dieter Eiselen, Adam Redmond, and Badara Traore bring depth to the reserves.
What to Watch For:
Developing offensive linemen requires patience, so I’m keeping an eye on the likes of Borom, Simmons, Hambright, and (of course) Jenkins. Chicago’s second-round pick is being penciled in as LT1 to start the season, but Simmons, Hambright, and Borom are developmental projects who could provide necessary depth in an area of need. And as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather a team develop line depth like the Ravens do seemingly year-in and year-out than use precious cap space because it can’t develop it.
We Really Like:
The interior trio of Whitehair, Mustipher, and Daniels has the potential to be a real strength early (and often). Whitehair is already an established pro with multi-positional flexibility. Daniels is on the cusp of joining Whitehair on that front. In fact, there is a case that a healthy Daniels is at that tier of players. Mustipher is a wild card in this. The Notre Dame product helped solidify the interior down the stretch last year. But if his offseason weight gain pays off, he can reach another level to his game.
We Might Be Worried About:
Missed opportunities to address problem spots on the line coming back to bite the Bears is something that keeps me up at night. And in the most literal terms, too. I legitimately have conversations with friends about potential trouble spots that wouldn’t be issues if the front office showed more of a commitment to making the position a strength. Don’t get me wrong. There are real, tangible reasons to think this group can be solid. But there is a fair amount of risk with how this group has been put together.
I could watch Teven Jenkins bully would-be tacklers ALL DAY.
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) May 7, 2021
I could watch Cody Whitehair deliver this block on loop until the end of time. pic.twitter.com/c2GiDbyOHg
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) May 23, 2021
The #Bears run blocking in 2020 has been absolutely clinical — check out Cody Whitehai and James Daniels on this play, who open a monsterous hole with a beautiful display of outside zone blocking.
Makes you wonder… where was any of this last year? pic.twitter.com/CmmbKjJYY0
— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) September 22, 2020