The injury bug has been nibbling at the Bears of late, particularly along the offensive line.
Larry Borom, who began the year as the team’s starting right tackle, hasn’t been practicing this week due to an injury that came about during the Bears’ loss at the Jets last week. Riley Reiff, who had been starting in place of Borom since he went into (and since returned from) concussion protocol, was practicing with limitations on Thursday after being unavailable due to a back injury on Wednesday. Right guard Teven Jenkins missed two games due to a bothersome hip injury. Center/guard Lucas Patrick is on IR after toe surgery. And Cody Whitehair, the Bears’ longest-tenured offensive player, spent some time on IR earlier in the season.
Because of all these injuries, Chicago’s football team has been mixing and matching along the line throughout the season.And perhaps Alex Leatherwood’s time will come. After all, he might be the healthiest of the bunch right now (and if you’ll recall, he spent some time on the non-football illness list and was out for a while). Nevertheless, Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus was asked specifically about Leatherwood and if he would start at right tackle due to Reiff and Borom dealing with injuries. And Eberflus’ answer made me raise an eyebrow:
To be fair, that is a relatively non-committal statement from Coach Flus. But it is one that puts me on alert that Leatherwood could be in consideration to play this week. Or, if not this week, perhaps sometime soon. And that intrigues me as much as it probably does this coaching staff. Keep in mind that this is the stretch run for in-season evaluation. And I’d bet the Bears would like to evaluate the 2021 first-round pick on game day (instead of just at practice). You’d like it to be in a more favorable situation. But then again, what better time to earn your stripes than during Packers Week?
The Bears claimed Leatherwood off waivers from the Raiders in August. And in his first practice with the team, the Bears put Leatherwood at right tackle. So it is only natural to take the leap that Leatherwood could be in line at right tackle. Unfortunately, it appears to have opened up due to injuries. But that will happen from time to time in the NFL. This is a next-man-up league and Leatherwood is next in line for a crack at a starting gig. On top of that, Leatherwood should have no shortage of motivation to win the job and never give it back. The Raiders waived him at the end of the preseason after trying him out at multiple positions. And the Bears, a team desperate to find stability up front, could find it in a player with a first-round pedigree. Wouldn’t that be something?
However, Leatherwood needs to prove he can handle it. Hopefully, he’ll get his chance soon.