Let me get out in front of this by saying — from the top — that I don’t want to put too much into the first rookie minicamp practice of the Matt Eberflus era.
HOWEVER, I found this offensive line alignment to be rather interesting:
#Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said he liked what he saw from the rookie O-linemen today.
Braxton Jones was working at LT, Ja'Tyre Carter at LG, Doug Kramer at C, Zach Thomas at RG, Jean Delance at RT.
— Sean Hammond (@sean_hammond) May 6, 2022
There are three notable things in Sean Hammond’s tweet you see above. And without going too far ahead of myself, I’d say the lineup above hints at position battles that could be coming down the pipeline. Let’s discuss.
Braxton Jones gets the first crack at left tackle
The Bears flipping Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins seems to line Jenkins up to be the team’s right tackle and open a competition with Borom and others to see who will be responsible for protecting Justin Fields’ blindside. And Jones, the first offensive lineman drafted by the new regime, is the first contender to challenge Borom.
The rookie from Southern Utah has ideal size and tools, but needs work. But that isn’t unexpected out of a Day 3 pick. Even still … a player with size, skill, and desirable traits at left tackle could wow decision-makers at Halas Hall. At minimum, Jones presents a formidable threat to Borom as an incumbent starter. Then again, there will be some who might feel uneasy about two Day 3 picks duking it out to start at what might be the most important position on the offensive line.
Perhaps that battle will play out similarly to what we saw last year. Remember, with Jenkins out of action last summer, we saw a handful of young players give it a go at left tackle during training camp and into the preseason. And when things weren’t looking too good after the preseason lid-lifter, the Bears brass wasted little time in signing Jason Peters and installing him as the team’s bridge option at left tackle. There is a non-zero chance of history repeating itself, so let’s keep an eye on that position battle as things move along.
Zachary Thomas gets the nod at right guard
That spot that has been vacant since James Daniels’ departure, which makes it ripe for the picking.
With all due respect to Dakota Dozier and Sam Mustipher, this is the most open competition the Bears have on their hands. Mustipher and Dozier have starting experience in the league. But neither player has too much inspiring tape to entrench them in a starting spot. And that Chicago insists on starting Lucas Patrick — who has experience staring at right guard — at center while simultaneously moving Mustipher off the position and into a new role seems to speak volumes about how they envision the future of the line. In other words, it sure seems like there is an avenue for Thomas to take en route to a starting job if he puts out some quality tape in the early going.
Doug Kramer starting at center
Kramer as the man in the middle with this unit was always going to be a thing. Moreover, I fully expect Kramer to get a lion’s share of the center snaps when Patrick isn’t under center. But that’s where Kramer can make some hay. It isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that Kramer can prove worthy to start at center. That could ultimately shift Patrick to right guard. And in one fell swoop, it could make for upgrades at two positions. To be clear, Kramer has to work to move Patrick off his position. But I suppose there is a path to a line that has Cody Whitehair, Kramer, and Patrick in the middle going from left to right. It’s just that a lot needs to happen for it to shake out like that.
Having a bunch of moving parts was bound to happen after drafting four offensive linemen on Day 3. But I like that it is happening because it means the new administration saw what we saw last year. The offensive line was needing a shakeup. New scheme, coaching, and bodies are a breath of fresh air. And it was all necessary.
GM Ryan Poles has said he wants the Bears coaches to throw the five best offensive lineman on the field. And that feels like something worth noting as we move on and build toward training camp. What that looks like will be determined by who plays best and earns it. In the end, it sure seems like there are gigs to be won. And the rookies could certainly play their way into a spot. Let the games begin!