It sure sounds like Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus isn’t too happy with how the interior trio was handling pass protection.
In his Monday press conference, Eberflus spoke on troubles that kept popping up in the middle of his team’s offensive line. And while he didn’t name-check Sam Mustipher, Lucas Patrick, or Teven Jenkins, Eberflus seemed none too pleased about the pass protection during Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants.
“We had good protection at times. But obviously, it broke down some in the middle at times,” Eberflus said, via the team’s website. “One of their inside rushers had a pretty good day. We have to be firm there. … We need to have a better day there.”
OK, so what are the Bears to do about a situation that has been a point of concern
all season since the offseason for years?
I have some ideas…
Bench Sam Mustipher
Sending center Sam Mustipher to ride the pine is a popular opinion. And after Sunday’s performance, I don’t have an argument to counter that idea:
Perhaps plugging Michael Schofield into the left guard spot makes sense while Cody Whitehair is out of action. This move could slide Lucas Patrick to center and keep Teven Jenkins at right guard. In a way, it would upgrade two positions (seeing that Patrick was signed to be a center in the first place). And if the Bears believe Mustipher can be a full-time starter, then they could use his time on the bench to re-assess some things and give him some time to iron out some kinks. It can’t hurt, but it could help.
I’d oppose the Bears continuing a Jenkins-Patrick platoon. Not just because it would keep Mustipher at the center but also because Jenkins has been the better player of the two. By no means is Jenkins a star at the position. However, the eye test and metrics spit out the same conclusion — Jenkins is currently the team’s best right guard option. But this is something the decision-makers at Halas Hall like for some reason, so it might keep chugging along.
Move Larry Borom to Guard? Start Riley Reiff?
Part of me wants to consider Borom moving back inside to guard, a position he is familiar with from last season. That would allow free agent addition Riley Reiff to check in as a starting right tackle. And just in time for a revenge game against the Vikings, his former team. Revenge games aside, a lineup with Braxton Jones, Borom, Patrick, Jenkins, and Reiff might be the most talented group the Bears can throw out while Whitehair is out. However, I’m hesitant to move Borom right now.
Through four weeks, Borom is Pro Football Focus’ 22nd highest-graded offensive tackle among 70 qualifying players. You’re in good company when your grade is higher than the likes of Elgton Jenkins, Mike McGlinchy, and Garrett Bolles. Borom is grading out well as a pass-blocker (26th/70) and run-blocker (21st/70). The second-year player from Missouri appears to be settling in at right guard. So why mess with the mojo?
Play Alex Leatherwood When He is Healthy
Leatherwood, acquired off the waiver wire before the start of the season, is on the non-football illness list and won’t be eligible to return *AFTER* this upcoming game against the Vikings. But if Whitehair is out for a while, then the Bears should consider putting the developmental balls in motion for Leatherwood. There were some real struggles for Leatherwood at guard and tackle when he was with the Raiders last year. But Leatherwood has an All-American pedigree from his time at Alabama and was a first-round pick just one season ago. There is stuff to work with, so the Bears would be wise to let another talented lineman work his way into the lineup.
In the End…
There isn’t an overnight cure-all that Chicago can apply going into Week 4. But signs suggest it is time to mix things up along the offensive line. Sure, it might resemble a choose-your-own-adventure coloring book map with disastrous results. However, continuing to roll out the same group doesn’t make much sense.