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Saturday Spotlight: Germain Ifedi

Throughout the 2021 NFL season, we’ll spotlight a Bears player in a weekly column. This week, we’ll take an in-depth look at Offensive Lineman Germain Ifedi

Chicago Bears v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Name: Germain Ifedi

Position: Offensive Lineman

Number: 74

Age: 27

Time with Bears: 2nd Season

The Past:

“It’s not about coaches...it’s not about players...It’s just all of us getting better.

Germain Ifedi knows what it’s like to play with star quarterbacks.

Out of high school, Ifedi was ranked as a four-star recruit by both 247 Sports and ESPN, and earned second-team all-state honors in Texas. He was ranked in both offensive tackle and guard categories.

The star offensive tackle Ifedi, hailing from Houston, opted to stay in-state and attend Texas A&M University. Ifedi redshirted his first year in 2012, while an Aggies offensive line led by future top draft pick Luke Joeckel helped quarterback Johnny Manziel win the first Heisman Trophy for a freshman in NCAA history.

The next year in 2013, Ifedi found himself in a starting spot for the Aggies, at right guard, where he started all 13 games. “Johnny Football” Manziel found his way back into Heisman finalist class, and Ifedi blocked for a team which was top-10 in both passing and rushing categories and led by another future top draft pick Jake Matthews.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Texas A&M v West Virginia Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The redshirt-sophomore Ifedi filled a hole when star left tackle Jake Matthews left for the NFL, and head coach Kevin Sumlin moved some pieces around, finding a fit for Ifedi at right tackle. This greatly helped Ifedi’s professional prospects, and outside of two games missed due to a sprained ankle the young lineman started every game for the Aggies in 2014. Texas A&M was ranked as #5 in both total offense and scoring for the season.

Ifedi became a leader for the Aggies as a redshirt-junior in 2015, starting all 13 games for the team which went 8-5 and featured future NFL quarterback Kyle Allen and future Heisman winner Kyler Murray. After mastering the art of blocking for star quarterbacks, Germain Ifedi was ready for his own stardom.

After three outstanding years starting for powerful offensive lines, Germain Ifedi opted to take his talents to the NFL. The scouting report listed his pros as his athleticism and hand strength, with his ability to play guard and tackle as a plus. His perceived weaknesses at the professional level were reliance on that hand strength while not using his legs to drive power, and non-fluid movements in pass blocking.

In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks traded back with the Denver Broncos, picking up the 31st overall pick in the process. With the final pick of day 1 (New England forfeited their 1st round pick), the ‘Hawks took a chance.

“With the 31st pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks select: Germain Ifedi. Tackle. Texas A&M.”

Ifedi entered the 2016 season slotted as a starter at right guard for the Seahawks, but an injury sidelined the start of his NFL career. After missing 3 games due to an ankle, the rookie made his debut in October and went to work. He started the remaining 13 games for the Seahawks, but for once, Ifedi was on a line that struggled. Quarterback Russell Wilson struggled to stay upright, nursing injuries that kept him more stationary than he was known for being. Ifedi finished his rookie season without a single holding call, a lone bright spot on a rough offensive line.

Ifedi was moved to right tackle in 2017, where he faced more adversity on the stat sheet than ever before in his career. Leading the league in penalties by an offensive lineman (specifically false starts), Ifedi was was struggling to get in time with his quarterback. What’s more, Russell Wilson was still running for his life, sacked 43 times for the 4th-most in the league. It was getting bad, to the point where Wilson was literally having to do everything, like this ridiculous play. Ifedi started at right tackle for all 16 games that year.

In 2018, then-24 year old Ifedi found more rhythm in the running game, with second-year pro Chris Carson cracking 1000 yards rushing, while Ifedi limited his holding penalties to 3 through 15 starts. Unfortunately, in week 2, the Seahawks traveled to Chicago to take on the Bears, and Khalil Mack ate the entire line’s lunch. The Seahawks led the league in rushing for the year, and Ifedi was no small part.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Before the 2019 season, the Seahawks declined Ifedi’s 5th year option on the former first-round pick, and Ifedi stared down the season as a tryout for his next team. He still had issues with penalties, with 8 false starts and 4 holding calls through 16 starts. Still, the Seahawks went 11-5, finished near the top of the NFL in rushing yards, and made it to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.

The following offseason, Germain Ifedi became a free agent. Ryan Pace called, and Ifedi answered.

Ifedi was one of four former 1st-round draft picks the Chicago Bears picked up before the 2020 season, with the Bears intent on keeping their perceived championship “window” open. The Bears signed him to be their starting right guard, with tackles Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. on the team at the time. He was a new addition to support then-new offensive line coach Juan Castillo.

The team overall fell flat, with injuries hampering the offensive line through the first half of the season. Ifedi was moved from guard to tackle to fill in for Bobby Massie, who went on injured reserve. Ifedi’s diversity in positional availability was a positive on an offense which had plenty of negatives, and Ifedi cleaned up his penalties with only 5 on the year through 16 starts. Though perhaps not the elite player the Seahawks had originally drafted him to be, Germain Ifedi had become a solid offensive lineman to block for David Montgomery and the Bears.

The Present:

Kyler Murray. Russell Wilson. Justin Fields. The Bears have to hope Fields is the latest in a series of elite quarterbacks that Germain Ifedi has blocked for. In the latter half of 2020, Sam Mustipher started to show that he can be a legitimate NFL starting center, rather than a fill-in piece due to injury. That allowed the Bears to find a new home for former second-round pick James Daniels: at right guard.

If this line can stay healthy, Ifedi would ideally start the entire season at right tackle, and so far in 2021 it’s been a mixed bag. He has 2 false starts through 2 games, and a rookie starting at quarterback that he needs to get in time with. The Bears need to be very disciplined on offense; with 6 of 11 starters still on rookie/futures contracts, they’ll have some slip-ups here and there.

The Bears need Ifedi to be a leader for the rest of the offensive line as they get settled into roles.

The future:

Ifedi played 2020 on a one-year contract, and re-signed with the Bears directly after the team agreed to terms with Andy Dalton. Though only on a one-year deal, it would likely take a team signing him away next offseason for him to be on the move. The Bears have to hope that newly-drafted tackles Tevin Jenkins and Larry Borom are both long-term answers at the position, but only Tevin Jenkins looked ready to lock down a starting position out of college. With Jenkins dealing with back injuries that could potentially derail a significant part of the start of his career, and Ifedi’s ability to play multiple positions on the offensive line, there’s no reason to expect he’ll be playing elsewhere anytime soon.

Ifedi is 27 years old, and has plenty of years ahead of him in the NFL.

In the more immediate future, Ifedi and fellow Bears offensive tackle Jason Peters have an immense task ahead of them in week 3: Myles Garrett. The former first-overall pick was first team All-Pro last season, and only has 1 sack on the season thus far in 2021. While some might rejoice in knowing that it isn’t Chandler Jones on the other end, it’s worth wondering if this isn’t the game where Garrett is going to remind the NFL who he is.

Garrett had 12 sacks through 14 games in 2020. With that average, if he lines up from Ifedi, expect a hold or a sack allowed at least once.

Week 1 prediction:

1 false start, 1 sack allowed.