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Chicago Bears 2018 Position Battles: The offensive line needs continuity

Next up in our 11-part position by position look at the Chicago Bears’ training camp battles is the offensive line.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

I think the offensive line of the Chicago Bears is a low-key strength of the team. The projected starting five could be really good, but they need to stay healthy. Behind the top six there are a few unknowns and that’s where things could get scary.

The most exciting thing about the o-line is the addition of offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. He’s a teacher that will get the best out of his players.

Roster Locks

The top six of Bobby Massie (RT), Kyle Long (RG), Cody Whitehair (C/G), Eric Kush (G/C), James Daniels (G/C), and Charles Leno Jr. (LT) are all no-brainers. The only questions among this group is who starts at center and who starts at left guard. Whitehair appears to be the center heading into camp, with the rookie Daniels competing at left guard. Kush played good football two years ago (he missed all of 2017 with an injury), and I expect him to be in the mix at left guard too.

I find it interesting that Daniels is listed at center on the Bears’ website, so we’ll see if he ends up there with Whitehair kicking in to guard. My stance on the position swapping is the Bears need to make a decision rather quickly in camp. Regardless of who ends up where, let them get comfortable in their positions and let them grow there. Kush is a six year veteran that is used to jumping around the interior, whereas Daniels is a 20-year old rookie that I’d like to see settle into one spot. Whitehair is talented enough to move to guard, but if that’s the case do it as soon as possible. The starting five needs to build some continuity early in the season.

I think Daniels ends up starting with Kush the first guard off the bench.

A good bet to make it

It’s been about two years since Hroniss Grasu tore up his knee at Family Fest and if there were any lingering affects last season, that should be all behind him now. His technique has always been sound, but his strength at the point of attack has been problematic. If his core strength has improved he could find a place on the 53-man roster.

As the roster stands right now, Bradley Sowell is the swing tackle. He can play a little guard too, so that gives him some added value.

The Bears signed Earl Watford as a free agent (with a $550,000 guarantee), and he played in 42 games with 22 starts from 2014 to 2017 while in Arizona. He can play either guard spot and in a pinch he could play right tackle.

On the bubble

The bubble guys will need a really good camp to push those three above off the roster.

A lot of fans are penciling in Jordan Morgan because he was a draft pick last year, but his Kutztown tape in 2016 was really raw. He’s strong and athletic, but his technique has a long way to go. Perhaps he spent his red-shirt year working on his craft and will be a camp surprise.

Four year veteran Matt McCants will try and push Sowell for the swing tackle job, but he’s been bouncing around since 2013 with only three career starts.

Guards Brandon Greene and Will Pericak were both on Chicago’s practice squad last year, with Greene getting a late season call up.

Rookie undrafted free agents Jeremi Hall (OG) and Dejon Allen (OT) will hope to make it to the team man practice squad.

In my opinion, the most intriguing prospect among this group is Rashaad Coward. The 6’5” 320 pounder was an undrafted free agent last year and he spent most of the year on the practice squad. But back then he was a defensive end, and he appeared in three late season games (11 total snaps). O-line coach Harry Hiestand must see something in Coward that leads him to believe he can make the switch. He does have quick feet and active hands, two things you need for the offensive side of the ball. Initially it was announced that he’d be playing guard, but on the team website he’s listed simply as OL.

EDIT: Hall was waived, and they brought another center into camp in Jack Allen. Allen was originally an UDFA by the Saints in 2016, and he missed all of last year with an injury. He’s a technically sound player, and someone to keep an eye on during preseason.