When describing the offensive line of my favorite NFL team, I would love to use the adjectives “great,” “outstanding,” “fearful,” or “elite.” Hell, I’d even settle for a consistent “pretty good” when talking about the five guys the Chicago Bears line up in the trenches.
But right now the best we can hope for “solid” or “average,” this according to long time offensive line analyst Brandon Thorn who recently ranked all the starting o-linemen in the league into tiers.
He had 4 of Chicago’s projected starting 5 in his fourth tier, the “solid/average” tier, with one Bear in his sixth and last tier which he calls the “marginal” players. Keep in mind that Thorn says that many of his lower-tiered guys have arrows that are pointing up (or down), so it’s possible that they move once the season gets rolling.
If projected right guard Germain Ifedi, who at 26-years old has already amassed 60 starts in his four years as a pro, can take to the position change he could creep up to the adequate or the solid/average tier by the end of the 2020 season. At 6’5”, 325 pounds, he has a skill set that seems to translate to guard, but until we actually see him do it, I think the 6th-tier is fair.
Thorn is one of the best in the business when breaking down offensive line play and you can find his work at Establish The Run, The Scouting Academy, and The Athletic to name a few, so when he talks about Trench Warfare, which is the name of his podcast by the way, I listen.
He has all of Charles Leno Jr. (LT), James Daniels (LG), Cody Whitehair (C), and Bobby Massie (RT) in his solid/average tier, and while those aren’t exciting adjectives to describe their play, understand it’s a far cry from any of those four players being “awful” or “terrible.”
The 28-year old Leno has been a scapegoat from some Bears fans, but I think Thorn’s assessment is spot on.
coming off a down (below average) year but was very solid the year before and was better in 17 than 19 too. I think 'solid' is a very fair way of categorizing his play the last few years.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) July 22, 2020
His 2019 wasn’t as good as his Pro Bowl 2018 season or even his 2017 season, which came right after he was given a big contract extension, and Leno knows he needs to get better this year. He’s still relatively young and has never been injured, so I’m guessing the drop-off in play is an anomaly and he’ll be back to his solid play in 2020.