It is Long Overdue, But It Sounds Like Fixing the Offensive Line Will Be Ryan Poles' Top Priority

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It is Long Overdue, But It Sounds Like Fixing the Offensive Line Will Be Ryan Poles’ Top Priority

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears might’ve gone from one Ryan P to another running the show at Halas Hall, but I think the similarities end with their initials. And while we don’t know if Poles’ time in Chicago will end any differently than that of his predecessor, he did suggest that at least the path will be different, specifically, when it comes to building the offense.

Obviously, Poles wants the Bears to score more touchdowns. Who doesn’t? But going about creating an offense that finds pay dirt hasn’t been easy in Chicago. Hence, I found it interesting to hear from Poles where he believes it begins.

My ears perked up when Poles said: “It starts with the foundation of the offensive line.”

The new GM talking up the line’s importance makes me think it will be a point of emphasis this offseason. It’s long overdue. But better late than never, right?

Between injuries, inconsistent play, and a lack of resources going to the position group, there has been no shortage of reasons why the Bears offensive line hasn’t been able to establish itself as a strength. And in turn, the offense has struggled behind it.

It isn’t a coincidence that Chicago’s offense failed to get off the ground with steady changes up front. The Bears have changed it up with coaches. First, hiring (then firing) Harry Hiestand. And then hiring Juan Castillo as his replacement. They’ve played musical chairs with players at different positions, with James Daniels and Cody Whitehair having started at all three interior line spots since joining the team in 2018 and 2016, respectively.

Versatility can be valuable, to be sure. But there is also value in keeping players at positions they excel at and letting the group gel in that way.

With that being said, it would’ve been nice to see more of an investment in the line over the years. The lack of investment surely wasn’t helping matters in the trenches. Save for the Daniels and Teven Jenkins selections, the Pace regime did not invest much in terms of premier draft capital as one might expect from a team whose line had as many struggles as the Bears. And let’s not overlook the spending — or lack of it — in recent years. Chicago’s front office has been spending money, just not in the trenches on the offensive side of the ball. Over the last four years, the Bears have ranked 29th (2021), 21st (2020), 31st (2019), and 23rd (2018) in positional spending at the offensive line position, per OverTheCap.com’s calculations. That simply isn’t enough for a position group that has been needing the help for some time.

To be fair, there have been players who have had their moments over the years. Whitehair was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2018. So was Charles Leno Jr., but he is off in Washington where he was paid handsomely for his efforts upon arrival. Kyle Long was a menace when he was healthy, but wasn’t healthy often enough at the tail end of his Bears career. Larry Borom had moments as a rookie in 2021 where he was looking like a late-round steal. And on the other side of the line, Jenkins had his moments, too. But when these splash moments are too few and far between, you know something is up. And even though Poles hasn’t been here long enough, it is evident he knew that — from afar — this group needs changes.

And when Poles directly addresses how the league’s best offenses are strong up front, it tells me he sees what we all see. That, on its own, is encouraging.

I suppose that, if anyone was well-positioned to make this group a strength, it is a new GM with a background as a former offensive lineman who has an idea of what to look for when evaluating the position:

Cool, cool, cool.

Let’s line this up. The new Bears GM is a former offensive lineman. One whose former boss notes had a unique perspective when it came to evaluating players at the position. Also, Chicago’s new Assistant GM, Ian Cunningham, is another former lineman. One whose previous employers did well in investing at the position. This feels like it is worth shouting from a rooftop. If anyone knows how to beef up the trenches, it should be a pair of guys who were there as players.

Funny thing is that this isn’t a far-fetched line of thinking. Give it a whirl in your brain for a moment. The previous regime was led by a college defensive lineman (Pace). And what position group were the Bears superb at finding unsung heroes and gems? Yeah, that defensive line was a rock for the Bears in the Pace era. As a college D-lineman, Pace knew what he was looking for at the position. And it was reflected in how his team was built. Now, it is the former offensive linemen’s turn to have a crack at it.

Imagine if the former college offensive lineman can do for their side of the ball what Pace did in an area of his expertise. None of this is to say the Bears are fixing this line overnight. However, having new eyes on old problems who happen to know the position should be helpful. At minimum, they should be able to put the Bears on the right track. Now, let’s go fine some linemen at the Senior Bowl. Shall we?


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Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.