An already messy offensive line situation isn’t getting any clearer with news of Cody Whitehair’s injury.
ICYMI: Whitehair suffered a knee injury in the Bears’ Week 4 loss to the Giants. The starting left guard and longest-tenured lineman was initially listed as doubtful to return. But he never made his way back onto the playing field. Leaving the game with a knee injury left Chicago to roll with Lucas Patrick at left guard, Sam Mustipher at center, and Teven Jenkins playing right guard. Moving forward, we should familiarize ourselves with the Patrick-Mustipher-Jenkins triumvirate because it sounds like Whitehair will be out for a while.
Head Coach Matt Eberflus says Whitehair is “going to miss some time” due to the knee injury. Eberflus doesn’t offer up specifics. Perhaps some clarity will pop up by the time he meets again with the media on Wednesday. But this is a gut punch:
This Whitehair injury update, plus Alex Leatherwood on the non-football injury list with mono leaves the Bears in a bind. And it’s not as if things were in a great place when everyone was healthy. Part of me wants to feel better about the situation knowing the Bears bench has veterans. Especially since Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield have extensive starting experience. But that we’re reaching down the depth chart for players who couldn’t beat incumbents on shaky ground (Larry Borom, Teven Jenkins) or a rookie Day 3 pick (Braxton Jones) makes me feel uneasy. I’ll fall short of calling it a disastrous situation, but it might not be that far off. There is this ominous feeling surrounding the state of the line. As if that group is one snap away from uncontrollable calamity status. And I just can’t shake it.
For what it’s worth, it’s not all bad news. Even though the Bears aren’t ruling out an IR stint, Eberflus expects Whitehair to return at some point this year. Moving Whitehair to injured reserve would open up a spot on the 53-player roster. However, it is worth remembering that a maximum of eight players can return from IR in a given season. Wide receivers N’Keal Harry and Byron Pringle are among those who could make in-season returns from IR. So while that is just two of eight spots, I can see teams managing who returns from IR with care. Especially since there are two weekly roster spots teams can use to flex practice squad players onto the active roster. Add it to the list of things we’ll need to monitor as the year trudges along.
In the end, it is a bummer to see the longest-tenured Bears offensive lineman leave the lineup due to injury. But the NFL is a next-man-up league. So at least this should give some young players some runway to takeoff in their development.
*Glares in Teven Jenkins’ general direction*