Last Sunday marked Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo’s first game with the team. If that game was any indication of the rest of his time in Chicago, the hire could prove to be a slam-dunk addition.
From allowing just one sack and not causing any holding penalties to a rushing attack that totaled 149 yards, the Bears’ offensive line was an unsung hero as a collective unit that was arguably its best performing position group all day.
The Bears had a solid offensive line in 2018, even sending Charles Leno Jr. and Cody Whitehair to the Pro Bowl for their efforts. However, despite having very little personnel turnover outside of Rashaad Coward replacing an injured Kyle Long instead of Bryan Witzmann, the group regressed in 2019. Said regression was the cause of the team firing then-offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, despite his being one of the most revered coaches at the position in the league.
While it’s hard to assuredly say this early that bringing in Castillo was a fantastic move, Chicago’s offensive line certainly looked a lot better against the Lions in Week 1 than it did for much of last season.
The play-calling, relying more on outside-zone runs and multiple tight end sets than the previous year, played to the unit’s strengths much better. Two players in particular, guards James Daniels and Germain Ifedi, surpassed expectations. Daniels has always been athletic, but he complemented that quickness with nice power at the point of attack last week. Ifedi had previously been deemed a first-round bust for his time in Seattle, but he brought a nasty edge to the Bears’ interior offensive line that had been lacking in 2019.
Whitehair was also his usual, reliable self, while Leno and Bobby Massie made some solid plays at the tackle position.
I broke down the Bears’ offensive line play in a recent thread on Twitter. While I chose to focus more on the run game, I threw in a couple plays in pass protection that I found especially intriguing.
I’m a big fan of utilizing J.P. Holtz as an H-back in this offense. Watch Cody Whitehair adjust his hips and feet to seal off the off-ball linebacker here: without that block, this six-yard run probably gets blown up. #Bears pic.twitter.com/L3IudgZg28— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) September 17, 2020
The #Bears wisely utilize some pre-snap motion to confuse Detroit’s defense. Germain Ifedi in particular looks dominant here at the point of attack, while Demetrius Harris and Cole Kmet both make key blocks against the wide-9 EDGE and the box safety, respectively. pic.twitter.com/77KaWFl6qh— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) September 17, 2020
Very nice outside-zone run here. Nearly every OL is able to overwhelm their defender at the point of attack. While Montgomery did have a hole up the A gap, his choice to cut back probably saved him from getting tackled by 58 early. Great job fighting for extra yards, too. #Bears pic.twitter.com/3m37FQVOn5— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) September 17, 2020
Here’s a pass protection rep just for good measure. While it’s only a three-man rush, the #Bears execute their blocking assignments to perfection. Whitehair locks down the nose tackle, both tackles shut down the edge pressure, and both guards join in on the double-team. pic.twitter.com/LgwWpAOB7c— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) September 17, 2020
I was particularly impressed with Ifedi and Daniels on this run. Both guards looked powerful at the point of attack, and Daniels especially looked stronger in this game than he did in 2019. This wasn’t a huge run, but Monty did a great job fighting through contact. #Bears pic.twitter.com/Jvix1l9QdV— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) September 17, 2020
Another impressive outside-zone rep. The #Bears’ interior offensive line looked great here, sealing off the defenders and opening a solid lane for Montgomery, who admittedly could’ve identified it a little quicker. Also, Demetrius Harris on this play pic.twitter.com/fShAZwuumA— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) September 17, 2020
I’ll throw in another pass pro rep here because allowing one sack and having no holding penalties was very nice. Whitehair is powerful at POA, Massie’s active hands shuts the edge down, Leno & Daniels prepare for the stunt perfectly, Ifedi is active in looking for help. #Bears pic.twitter.com/o1ywdG70I2— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) September 17, 2020
The players’ improvements shouldn’t go unnoticed, but kudos to Juan Castillo, Bill Lazor and Matt Nagy for their playcalling on Sunday, too. They played to the offensive line’s strengths and went with heavier personnel, and that helped make the #Bears a lot better on the ground.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) September 17, 2020
Biggest takeaways from watching the #Bears OL:— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) September 17, 2020
- James Daniels looks stronger
- Germain Ifedi was a crucial addition
- Cody Whitehair is still a stud
- Charles Leno Jr. had some slip-ups but was generally his usual solid self
- Bobby Massie wasn’t perfect but had some nice plays
What did you think about the Bears’ offensive line last week? Do you agree or disagree with the analysis? Let us know in the comments below.