Be sure to check out the full 2015 Roster Turnover Story Stream as I work my way through every position group for the Chicago Bears.
Jermon Bushrod - signed through 2017 - When the Bears signed Bushrod before the 2013 season they were hoping to get a professional left tackle that would be near Pro Bowl level. His first year in Chicago he was a solid, yet unspectacular player, but his 2nd year in Chicago was a let down.
Pro Football Focus graded his '13 season at -7.2 overall, but that poor grade was really helped by his week 12 game against Robert Quinn and the St. Louis Rams. If you take away their grade from that game, his 2013 season would have been a +4.9.
I thought Bushrod played OK most of that season.
In 2014 the injury bug really hurt his overall play, but he started out the year playing really well. He was injured at a practice before week 5, so the team held him out of that game and their week 6 contest. When he returned he seemed to struggle in pass protection. PFF had Bushrod with a +5.5 overall grade after 4 games, but after returning from his injury, he didn't register an overall grade in the green (positive) until week 14. He finished with a -9.0 for the 2014 season.
The Bears need both left tackle Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson to have bounce back seasons for new head coach John Fox.
Jordan Mills - signed through 2016 - Mills is another player that struggled through injuries for much of the 2014 season, but the difference between he and Bushrod is, Bushrod at least has a history of solid play. Mills wasn't very good as a rookie and his play didn't take the expected jump going into his 2nd season.
I've said it before, but I really believe Mills spending his off season rehabbing hurt his progress in 2014. But with that being said, I think the Bears need to address some competition at the position in the next few months.
PFF did show an improvement for Mills from year one to year two. In his rookie year they gave him a -36.2 and last season he "improved" to a -15.7. If he did spend most of last year not feeling 100%, perhaps the +4.0 PFF overall grade over his last 5 games is a precursor to better things to come.
Michael Ola - signed through 2016 - The Bears signed former CFL'er Ola to primarily back up at right tackle and that's what he played all through preseason. When the Bears' offensive linemen started dropping in week 1, Ola was forced to play guard. He ended up making starts at both guard spots and both tackle spots during his rookie year, proving to be a quick study.
Ola did have more snaps as a guard in 2014 (494 at guard and 350 at tackle), but I think his best position is tackle. PFF actually had Ola's tackle play graded better than both Bushrod and Mills at -5.3. As a guard, Ola graded out at -6.7, which was worst among Chicago's guards.
Now that he's had a taste of action all along the offensive line, he should see a way to add more value to what he can offer the new coaching staff. Ola should be working hard this off season on his versatility.
Charles Leno - signed through 2017 - Leno managed to get a few snaps in the jumbo tight end role for the Bears in 2014, 32 snaps to be exact, and PFF gave him a -1.4 for his play. As a 7th round draft pick of the old regime, Ola will have to prove himself to head coach John Fox and his offensive staff.
Jason Weaver - signed through 2016 - The Bears signed Weaver to a reserve/futures contract after spending some time on their practice squad in 2014. He was originally an undrafted free agent by the Dolphins in 2013. Some scouts pegged the 6'5", 305 pound Weaver as a guard prospect coming out of Southern Mississippi.
2015 OUTLOOK - Before the 2014 season started most experts didn't believe that the Bears offensive line would be a weakness, but injuries really hurt them last season. They need to address their depth and find out who the right tackle will be in 2015. While I think an off season working out will do wonders for Jordan Mills, I think the Bears need to add a tackle either via the draft or through free agency.
Iowa's Brandon Scherff is a player some mock drafters have the Bears taking at 7th overall. CBSSports.com has 12 offensive tackles with a 1st-3rd round grade on them. Oklahoma's Daryl Williams is a 2nd round prospect we've looked at here on WCG in the last couple weeks. There will be a rookie or two, or maybe even three, brought in whether through the draft or after the draft via the undrafted free agent market.
With Jermon Bushrod making big money and Kyle Long set for a significant pay raise soon, I don't see the Bears targeting a high priced free agent at tackle. The Dallas Cowboys have two free agent right tackles that they may have to choose between in Doug Free and Jermey Parnell.
Once the free agent market shapes itself, the Bears will better understand their options.
The Bears could also bring back Eben Britton, who has played both guard and tackle the last two years in Chicago. Britton's experience coming in as a 6th offensive lineman may appeal to offensive coordinator Adam Gase as well.
And of course we can't touch on the tackle position in Chicago without mentioning the possibility of Long kicking outside. The new coaching regime has yet to make any personnel announcements for the 2015 season, but I'd like to see Long remain at guard.
What are your thoughts on the tackle position for the Bears in 2015?