On the one hand, calling the Chicago Bears offensive line situation “fluid” might be putting it lightly.
But on the other hand, maybe it exists as a perfect synonym for what is happening in the trenches. Remember, left guard Cody Whitehair and center Lucas Patrick are the only players presumably locked into starting positions. Three other spots are essentially up for grabs. Most notably, the bookend tackle spots. Especially after Head Coach Matt Eberflus said Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom are flipping positions for Tuesday’s workout:
The Bears had Larry Borom working at left tackle and Teven Jenkins lining up at right tackle, but Matt Eberflus said it's a fluid evaluation: "We're going to play with a lot of different combinations right now to see what guys to best."
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) April 19, 2022
Borom at left tackle? Yep, it happened. Jenkins at right tackle? Uh-huh. This probably isn’t how Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy saw it when those players were chosen with Bears’ draft picks nearly a calendar year ago. But those guys are gone. Thank goodness. The new guys are here. What a relief! And they are willing to explore some fresh angles. I can dig it.
Maybe it was for just a look-see. Perhaps it was done to light a fire under a pair of competitors eager to prove themselves to a new coaching staff and front office. Whatever it is, I don’t see it as inconsequential.
Not when Jenkins, a second-round pick in 2021, was once seen as a franchise left tackle. And certainly not when Borom, a fifth-round pick in the same class, was projecting to be a guard or right tackle at the pro level. Then again, maybe this swap makes sense. Firstly, Borom was a standout left tackle at Missouri. And, for what it’s worth, the previous regime thought highly enough to give him training camp reps with the 1s at left tackle. Secondly, Jenkins was a stud right tackle before flipping to the left side after draft weekend. Before that decision went down, the expectation was that Jenkins would be a plug-and-play right tackle. It is good to keep stuff like this in mind as we try to think along with the evaluation process.
It’s way too early to feel strongly one way or another about this development. Ultimately, I land on seeing this as a reminder that versatility is ever-so-valuable along the offensive line. This isn’t to say that my preference would be to start different players on a rotating basis. Hardly. But while I think players are best served starting and sticking at a particular spot, the ability to step into various roles isn’t invaluable. Take Lucas Patrick as an example of a player who earned a second contract (in part) because he could show an ability to log important snaps at multiple spots along Green Bay’s offensive line. No matter how you slice it, the ability to plug in at any position at a moment’s notice figures to be valuable as players go about earning their stripes for new coaches.
In the end, it is possible that this is all a first step in a process in which the Bears will go about finding which combination of five players will best protect Justin Fields in the year to come. In any case, I’m intrigued and encouraged by this news. Bring on the positional battles. And let the best player win!