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10 Most Important Bears of 2018: #5 Charles Leno Jr., blindside protector

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For the 10th straight year, I’m bringing you who I believe will be the ten most important Chicago Bears for the upcoming season. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. is up next at number five.

Atlanta Falcons v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Let’s get this out there right away.

If you’re one of the vocal minority that believes that Charles Leno Jr. sucks, then don’t even bother coming at me. I won’t interact with you because your football acumen is obviously nonexistent.

Football players come in more varieties than just “great” and “sucks.” There’s a whole lot in between, and that is what makes up a team.

Leno is a 26-year old player that has started 45 consecutive games at left tackle for the Chicago Bears. Are there better players out there? Of course. Are there worse left tackles out there? Hell yes.

Ask any offensive lineman what would make his life easier and they’ll tell you it’s a good play caller. Honing technique is a must, as is working on strength and conditioning, but a competent offensive system that keeps a defense guessing is the most important thing.

If a defensive lineman knows you’re running the ball on first and ten, do you think that will give him an advantage?

It’s now second and seven and the defense knows another run is coming because, John Fox. Advantage is still with the D.

Third and six and finally a pass! Do you think the pass rush is ready to attack now?

Give me a first down play action pass, then a second down run/pass option for a...

FIRST DOWN!

Shotgun inside zone on first down, followed by a quick slant on second down for a...

FIRST DOWN!

Mix it up. Keep a defense guessing and the offensive line is the unit that’s in attack mode. And that’s how it should be, because schematically speaking, the offense has the advantage on every single play. Passive (i.e. scared) play calling has no place in the NFL. Even a team devoid of offensive talent can get creative and make a defense react to what you’re doing.

Head coach Matt Nagy and the new offensive staff will do wonders for the offensive line this year.

But back to Leno. The criticism for him seemed to really ramp up once he got paid last year. There’s something about professional teams spending their money that riles up certain members of a fanbase. The Bears paid Leno the going rate for a starting left tackle in the National Football League. That’s all they did. There are thirteen left tackles that make a higher average per year than the $9.25 million a year that Leno does. Sure it’s a lot of money for a guy that has never made a Pro Bowl, but almost half the left tackles getting paid more than he is have yet to make a Pro Bowl either.

Left tackles protect the franchise quarterback’s blindside, so if you find one you like you lock him up.

Leno needs to cut down on the penalties this year, but I think that happens as a result of a more sophisticated offense and a more experienced Mitchell Trubisky at QB. Those two things will help cut down on the sacks allowed as well. In my Sackwatch last year, I had him responsible for 3.5 sacks allowed. The Washington Post and FOX Sports, two other publications that track sacks allowed, each had him down for allowing five. FOX had twenty-eight players down with allowing more sacks than Leno, including a few of those higher paid left tackles.

Offensive linemen are going to give up sacks. It happens. That’s the nature of the position, so don’t be the guy yelling, “You suck!” at your TV when it does.

The Bears had their most success running the football around the left side where they went for a 5.0 average yards per carry. Next highest was over left guard at a 4.9, and next was over left tackle with 3.6 yards per carry. With a talented group of running backs, and an offensive scheme more conducive to success, I’d expect the running game to be effective again this year with Leno right in the middle of that success.

His game still has some room to grow and I think we’ll see his best season ever in 2018.