The Bears activated Cody Whitehair from injured reserve on Friday, which puts him in line to play on Sunday against the Dolphins.
But the question is … where?
Whitehair has starting experience at all three spots along the interior of the offensive line. Before his injury, Whitehair was thriving at the guard spot. Even with his absence, Whitehair’s 76.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus puts him at the 10th-highest-graded guard. OK, so the pass blocking isn’t what it has been in the past. But Whitehair’s 74.3 run-blocking grade has aided Chicago’s ground attack. And having the 12th-best run-blocker re-enter the fray could be helpful.
However, inserting Whitehair at guard would push Michael Schofield to the bench. Schofield has been playing admirably in Whitehair’s absence. But what are the Bears’ alternatives? Playing Whitehair at center and moving Sam Mustipher to the bench? Mustipher hasn’t done much to earn our trust this year, but he has been better of late.
As Windy City Gridiron’s Lester Wiltfong underscores, the newfound aggressiveness in Mustipher’s game has been a pleasant surprise:
I’m still chewing on what the Bears should do along the line. And I’m sure the Bears are, too. Plus, I’d bet you, our dear reader, have some thoughts on the manner. So let’s discuss some Bears options in the trenches.
Braxton Jones and Larry Borom Should Stay at Tackle
The pass blocking leaves much to be desired. But left tackle Braxton Jones and right tackle Larry Borom should probably stick in their current spots. What remains of this year should be about building with the young players on the roster and evaluating their potential roles in the future. It isn’t inconceivable to envision Jones, Borom (both?) in a starting role next year. But that can’t happen unless they play their way into a place where Chicago’s front office doesn’t sign or draft someone to put ahead of them on the depth chart.
Of course, the Bears could have different plans:
Riley Reiff making two starts in the middle of the season after playing minimal offensive snaps before last week’s start against the Cowboys isn’t something I was expecting. But part of me feels like Matt Eberflus not committing to Borom starting on Sunday makes sense. After all, he has had just one full practice since returning from concussion protocol. It is possible that Borom won’t be all the way there and ready to be a full go on game day. Don’t get me wrong. I see Borom has no injury designation next to his name. But the NFL seems to be driving home head safety since the Tua Tagovailoa fallout, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Bears slow play Borom’s return. Either that or Eberflus is yanking our chain.
Keep Teven Jenkins at Right Guard
Teven Jenins has been a revelation at right guard. So much so, the Bears should thank their lucky stars they didn’t do something drastic and trade Jenkins when the speculation was hot over the summer.
Jenkins ranks as PFF’s No. 8 overall guard with a 78.6 overall grade. The pass-blocking needs work, espeially with a 62.0 grade that ranks in the bottom half of players at the position. However, Jenkins is a road grater as a run blocker. Jenkins’ 81.4 run-blocking grade is the fifth best among guards. No more timeshares or platoons. Let this big boy cook on a full-time basis!
In the End…
This is what my ideal starting offensive line looks like when everyone is healthy:
- LT Braxton Jones
- LG Cody Whitehair
- C Lucas Patrick
- RG Teven Jenkins
- RT Larry Borom
The problem is that this unit hasn’t had everyone healthy at the same time. Hence, we’ve seen mixing and matching throughout the year. But maybe that could turn out to be a good thing. Perhaps players getting reps at different positions will turn out to be something that helps the overall quality of the line. At minimum, this alignment could allow the Bears to give their young players opportunities to develop while also providing puncher’s chance at protecting Justin Fields and clear space for the ground game.
I’ll be curious to see what it looks like in the trenches tomorrow. But even if it can hold down the fort, I still think we’ll see one more shakeup between now and season’s end.