The Chicago Bears fired most of their offensive coaching staff at the conclusion of their disappointing 2019 season. It was a season that saw their rushing yards per game, rushing yards per attempt, passing yards per game, and passing yards per attempt all decrease from the year prior. There’s plenty of blame for the assistant coaches, the play caller (head coach Matt Nagy), the scheme, and the players, because all aspects of Chicago’s offense needs to take accountability for that dreadful performance.
When general manager Ryan Pace and his scouts, and Nagy and his revamped offensive coaching staff, which includes new o-line coach Juan Castillo, evaluated their returning starting offensive line of left tackle Charles Leno Jr., left guard James Daniels, center Cody Whitehair, right guard Rashaad Coward, and right tackle Bobby Massie, they came away thinking this group doesn’t need much help to get back to their 2018 form.
Internally it’s expected that Castillo, number three on my most important Bears list, is really all that the unit needs to improve from their poor showing in 2019.
He better be able to get Chicago’s offensive line to play respectable football in 2020, because he’s the only significant change they made to their o-line room this offseason.
They brought in Germain Ifedi on a one-year $1,047,500 deal to compete for the right guard position, but there were guards with better resumes on the free agent market they could have turned to. Ifedi was a disappointment as Seattle’s starting right tackle the last three years, but he did spend his rookie year manning their right guard spot, so Castillo will need to mold him into a quality interior offensive lineman.
Castillo will also need to get Daniels’ career back on track, and that likely means he’s sticking at left guard with Whitehair staying at center (please stop shuffling these players around). Massie will need to bounce back from a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss the last five games of 2019. And Leno will need to make his 78th consecutive start at left tackle for the Bears better than his last one.
This unit is still relatively young, with Massie being the only player that has reached 30-years of age, and talented enough to bounce back. Sure they didn’t thrive last year, but it’s not like we haven’t seen these Bears play better football during their time in Chicago.
Recently noted o-line analyst Brandon Thorn ranked all the linemen in the league, and he came away thinking that 4 of the 5 Bears projected starters belonged in his “solid/average” tier. Is there room to improve? Certainly, but anyone saying they suck is just channeling their inner Ricky Bobby mentality; “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
The Bears are counting on Castillo to get the five starters to work in unison and to figure out why they slipped in play. Part of his responsibility (and part of the reason the o-line slipped in play) is working to fix Nagy’s run scheme. While not “run game coordinator” by name, that will also be one of Castillo’s jobs this year. The Bears’ running game in 2019 was too predictable, there were too many moving parts on occasion, and it didn’t marry well with the passing game. If Castillo can help clean things up in the running game that will help his offensive line the most.