Success at quarterback often goes hand in hand with success at offensive tackle. It is rare, though not unheard of, to see a star quarterback thrive without having his book-ends solidified. He does, after all, have little time if the edges of the pocket are continually condensed. If you’re a general manager and you’re staking out your future in a young passer, it would not be a stretch to call a lack of tackle investment malpractice.
Whatever the Bears hope to become in the coming years rests on the mind, arm, and legs of Justin Fields. He won’t able to consistently push the ball downfield the way Chicago’s offense needs if pressure is constantly in his face before he can even set his feet. Any rational mind would be setting him up to fail before he has the chance to prove himself.
In a move that surely acknowledges such a reality, Teven Jenkins might be that necessary blindside protector. If so, then Larry Borom is the added insurance policy. The double-dip at a position where the Bears can ill-afford any mistakes from the outset. Borom is the developmental project who could eventually turn out to be part of a dynamic tackle duo protecting Fields season after season as he launches darts on ropes
I had a conversation with Aaron Dryden from Rock M Nation — SB Nation’s Missouri affiliate — about Borom’s potential. The consensus seems to be that Borom can indeed not only be an immediate impact talent, but a walking embodiment of a fresh attitude the Bears are quite evidently trying to re-instill.
1. In two years as a starter for the Tigers, my impression is that Borom was one of the more underrated offensive linemen in the country. While there are easy reliability aspects to point to like him only missing a start once in his last 20 games, there’s more context needed. How would you characterize his place at Missouri?
Aaron Dryden: Borom came into Mizzou as an underrated, under-ranked, monster of a kid, but one who needed to refine his body to be able to compete in the SEC. He’s a natural athlete. The only thing stopping him was his body and to his credit, he improved pretty dramatically in that area.
He got onto the field after two years on campus, and was steady pretty much the entire time. During his junior season, there was unevenness in pass protection but he progressed well as the year went on. I should probably acknowledge that there were a lot of other issues related to that 2018 Mizzou offense.
In 2020, Borom made large strides in pass protection and I think that’s where his draft stock rose the most. He was a consistent force on the offensive line, and in the two games he didn’t play in 2020, the Missouri offensive line struggled.
2. One of the big headlines from Borom’s off-season was him working to slim down and lose 30 pounds over the last half year. Why might his former weight have been a weakness as a player? Does this work match the image you have of Borom at Missouri?
Aaron Dryden: His biggest flaws were always related to his conditioning and lateral quickness. It doesn’t surprise me that he was trying to slim down. He may be able to play at 330-pounds in college, but in the NFL I don’t know that he would be able to be very effective at that weight, especially at tackle if that’s where the Bears’ coaching staff decides to try him at first. As a guard you can hide a lack of lateral quickness, but if he’s being asked to pull it could be an issue.
All things considered, I think it’s a good sign that Borom realizes that this may be a weakness and addressed it before training camp starts.
3. What are Borom’s strengths as an offensive tackle? What will he do well immediately? How should Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo structure his development for Borom?
Aaron Dryden: Borom’s a smart player who can step in and be an effective mauling run blocker as soon as he puts the pads on. He has good hand placement, and really good feet. He gets to the next level, and can make linebackers pay for getting in his way. My favorite trait of his was his consistency. Through two seasons as a starter, Borom missed only a couple of games and only gave up two sacks — both in his first season as a starter.
As far as a development plan, I’m not sure. I think the first thing that will need to be decided is whether he’s a guard or tackle. I think he’s probably a guard, but there’s room for him to grow into being a swing tackle.
4. What are Borom’s weaknesses as an offensive tackle? Where might he struggle initially? Do you think he could be a competent starter down the line? What will the Bears’ offensive staff have to focus on early with him?
Aaron Dryden: As I said earlier, Borom’s issue at this level will be conditioning. I think that’s the crux of all of his issues. If it’s related to what weight he’s playing at, then dropping 30 pounds could absolutely help. Him continuing to stay at a workable weight, and developing more strength would also help. He had 21 reps on the bench which isn’t awful, but it isn’t great either.
I think there’s a real chance of Borom starting, and starting early for the Bears. I think some of that is an indictment of where they are up front, but I also think Borom is a solid player with no glaring hole in his game. Most people wouldn’t normally start a fifth-round pick. But I’m of the opinion that if Borom was in better shape, he’s a second-round talent.
5. What is your favorite anecdote or moment about Borom’s collegiate career that people might not be familiar with?
Aaron Dryden: I don’t have a moment per se, but I’ll always remember the drastic difference in how the Missouri offensive line as a unit performed when Borom was in versus when he wasn’t. It was interesting because he didn’t make calls up front or anything, but he was so important for them. He was an anchor. I don’t have an exact plus/minus for you, but it was evident that he was a major key in Missouri’s success.
To see the difference, I recommend watching Mizzou play Kentucky last year and how they dominated a talented Kentucky defense at the line of scrimmage with Borom on the field. Then go watch them play what was a depleted Florida defense without Borom.
It was night and day.