The Chicago Bears gave Elijah Wilkinson the start at left tackle on Saturday afternoon against the Miami Dolphins, and if we’re being honest here I had some concerns. I wasn’t impressed with his previous Denver Broncos tape at right tackle, and the thought of him being Chicago’s starting left tackle for week one isn’t something I’d be excited for.
The Bears added veteran left tackle Jason Peters over the weekend, so they clearly have some hesitation in Wilkinson starting for them as well.
But after re-watching the Dolphins game, Wilkinson wasn’t bad. I went through and graded each of his offensive snaps, and while I was watching the game I continued on through to the end and graded backup left tackle Badara Traore’s reps too.
I use a basic plus/minus grading system — nothing as fancy as some other grading services — so if a player does his job he get’s a plus, but if he doesn’t he gets a minus. Since I don’t know the exact responsibility of the left tackle on every single play, my grades aren’t going too be the same as what Bears o-line coach Juan Castillo hands out, but here’s what I got for Wilkinson.
I gave him a +33 and a -8 for an 80%, and to be honest a couple of the minuses could have gone either way as his rep had no impact on the play. Also, while he officially played 40 snaps he had a false start penalty, so I graded him on 41 plays.
For his positive plays he displayed strong hands, and he kind of reminded me of former Bears tackle Bobby Massie. His overall pass protection was better than I figured it would be, and he was solid in cutting off the edge. Some negatives came from not getting his hands up quick enough, and in getting pushed back too quickly at times. He was physical in the run game in moving his man off the line of scrimmage on most reps, and only one of his run plays got a minus.
He looked bad on the Justin Fields touchdown scramble, but this was probably his worst rep.
The Bears did a good job with play action and booting the quarterback away, and the quick passing game made it impossible for the Miami edge rushers to make an impact.
I graded Wilkinson’s backup, 2020 UDFA Badara Traore, on 11 plays and he got a +5/-6, so his best chance to stick around will be on the practice squad again. At 6’7”, 320 pounds, Traore has some physicality to him, but he needs to get his technique down if he’s going to stay at tackle.
I would expect the newly signed Jason Peters to quickly earn the left tackle job, which pushes Wilkinson back to the bench, but with with Teven Jenkins still sidelined with back tightness, fellow rookie Larry Borom still in concussion protocol, and projected starting right tackle Germain Ifedi still on the PUP list with a hip flexor injury, Wilkinson may compete to start on the right side. Lachavious Simmons just started and played every snap at right tackle against the Dolphins, but Wilkinson has the experience to push for that job if Ifedi doesn’t return soon.