Dissecting the Chicago Bears’ offensive line play in recent years has been as anxiety inducing as navigating this Super Mario level:
But it doesn’t have to be like this.
In fact, one analytically leaning group envisions the Bears’ offensive line as being one of football’s best in 2022.
Seth Walder’s post projecting the NFL’s best and worst offensive lines based on Pass and Run Block Win Rates is an ESPN+ exclusive, so I won’t dive too much into the piece.
But I will say that by combining the predicted PBWR and RBWR for this season (which are based on past performance of projected starters) the Bears look to be in surprisingly excellent shape. Assuming the Bears start Riley Reiff, Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Michael Schofield, and Larry Borom from left to right— Chicago’s offensive line ranks as the 11th best(!) based on these August projections.
“This is a pretty stunning rank for the Bears’ offensive line, but they have a few things going for them. Reiff and Schofield — late additions just before training camp — help bolster the line. Borom, a fifth-round pick a year ago, posted a very solid 90% PBWR last season in 10 games, 21st among tackles. And Patrick should be an asset in the ground game after ranking third in RBWR among centers lat year with the Packers.”
Well, well, well. How the turntables.
These rankings go contrary to what we’ve been seeing since the 2021 season came to an end.
Take rankings from Pro Football Focus as an example. At season’s end, the Bears’ offensive line checked in at No. 22 by PFF’s grading scale. But despite a shakeup in the position room, the analytics giant knocked the Bears down a few pegs. In updated rankings from June, PFF put the Bears line in the “problematic” category and ranked it 31st among the NFL’s 32 teams. But PFF isn’t the only analytical mind analyzing offensive line play. And for what it’s worth, ESPN’s reasoning for the high marks is sensible.
This pleasant surprise seems to have come about thanks mostly to the plans put forth by the new regime. Credit GM Ryan Poles for teaming the March signing of Patrick with the late-summer additions of Reiff and Schofield. And kudos are in order for the new coaching staff in shifting Borom to right tackle. Seeing the Bears with a predicted pass-blocking rank of 13 and a run-blocking rank that checks in as better than the pass protection (11th) is jarring. But pretty neat. Maybe this group has some unexpected tricks up its sleeves?
The tricky thing here – which could throw everything for a loop – is that this isn’t what the current line projects to be as of right now. That’s because Bears’ current projection has rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle, Reiff at right tackle, and Borom on the bench. How that would impact Chicago’s ranking is unknown, but I imagine it would bump the Bears down a bit considering the rookie left tackle has no NFL tape to grade off at this time. But maybe the fall wouldn’t be too far, seeing that the surprisingly high rankings are rooted in the Bears’ veteran additions.
So much can change in the 33 days that come before the Bears kick off their regular season schedule. This team hasn’t even played a preseason game yet. But with these early rankings on our radar, I find myself at a higher state of anticipation ahead of Preseason Week 1. Is it Saturday yet?