There have been countless stories written this offseason about different players and coaches on the 2020 Chicago Bears that have a chip on their shoulder heading into the season. Whether that’s a guy looking to bounce back from injury, a guy looking to show his subpar 2019 was just a fluke, a guy looking to prove the doubters wrong, or a guy simply pissed off after last year’s team disappointed with an 8-8 record, this Bears team will have plenty of bulletin board material if they get into that sort of thing.
Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. is one such player that has been criticized by the media and fans after his down 2019, and he has to rebound this year.
The Bears were comfortable in Leno being a long term solution at the blindside after he started 29 straight games from 2015 to 2016, so they gave him a contract extension in August of 2017. He hasn’t missed a start since then, and while his deal seemed big at the time, in 2020 he’ll only be the 23rd highest paid tackle in the NFL.
He’s paid like an average starter in the NFL, so the the Bears need him to bounce back, and at the very least, play like an average starter in 2020.
Leno wasn’t awful last year, but his play definitely slipped from 2018 when he made the Pro Bowl. My colleague Robert Schmitz recently looked at the good and bad from Leno’s 2019 season in this video.
Last year Leno struggled adjusting to the league’s new emphasis on holding penalties and that seemed to affect his play early on. He regrouped during the Bears’ bye week and was better after that, although a rough season finale against the Vikings soured the good vibes he was starting to get the previous weeks.
I had Leno down for allowing 5.5 sacks last year after allowing 4 the year before, and in the penalty department he had a team leading 13 flags thrown against him in 2019, but only 7 in 2018.
Leno was far from the only problem the Bears had along their offensive line, but if the 28-year old can get his career back on track it’ll go a long way towards righting Chicago's o-line woes.