The Chicago Bears went into this season with a few glaring holes throughout their offensive line room, and after the early waves of free agency and the NFL Draft there are still some questions around the group. But before diving into where the unit stands right now, let’s take a look back at where it was when the 2021 season ended.
Here’s how the Bears lined it up in that finale against the Vikings.
LT Jason Peters
LG Cody Whitehair
C Sam Mustipher
RG James Daniels
RT Larry Borom
And here’s how the Bears lined things up at their first organized team activity last month.
LT Larry Borom
LG Cody Whitehair
C Lucas Patrick
RG Sam Mustipher
RT Teven Jenkins
I doubt that exact quintette is going to be what the Bears trot out there on week one of the 2022 season, but I could see four of those guys in the starting lineup. The Bears have already said that Borom and Jenkins could be flipped, and that the first OTA was just a feeling out process for tackle. Jenkins is a lock somewhere, if healthy he has pro bowl upside, but Borom could be pushed to a swing role.
Experience and contract means that Whitehair will be around looking for a bounce back season, and he should be a viable placeholder for at least a year.
Patrick’s knowledge of the scheme from his time in Green Bay will help the continuity of the line immensely.
Mustipher, who has always been a center and is transitioning to guard to raise some value, is going to be pushed by one of the rookies or by an eventual veteran addition. I’d put his place on the 53-man roster about 50/50 right now.
The other returning veterans on the team have been put on notice by Chicago’s four new rookies, and while first year offensive linemen always battle through a learning curve, I see all four being in the roster mix in 2022.
Fifth rounder Braxton Jones from Southern Utah (link) probably has the best chance at staying at tackle. He has good size (6’5¼”, 310 lbs), and his arm length (35⅜”) is in the 92nd percentile among o-linemen per mockdraftable.com. In a perfect world he’s able to make Borom’s hold on tackle uncomfortable.
Sixth round pick Zachary Thomas from San Diego State University (link) also played tackle in college, but many scouts have his best pro position at guard. He’s another solid athlete, but his frame (6’4⅞”, 308 lbs, 33⅞” arm length) does make him likely to kick inside. I’m curious to see how the Bears line Thomas up this weekend.
Later in the sixth the Bears took Doug Kramer, a center from Illinois (link), and Kramer (6’2”, 299) will be in the mix to back up on the interior. He’ll likely need to show an ability to play guard to avoid a trip to the practice squad, but the current veteran depth on the team isn’t very impressive, and that bodes well in favor of Kramer making the 53-man roster.
Southern’s Ja’Tyre Carter (6’3”, 311) (link) was also a college tackle, but he’s getting moved inside to guard. While he’s coming from a small school, teams saw him perform at the Senior Bowl a few months ago, and he has good traits to work with.
Chicago has signed one undrafted rookie o-lineman in Florida’s Jean Delance (6’4”, 303), who was a college tackle, but may need to kick inside to guard. The Bears also have a handful or cookie linemen in on a tryout basis for this weekend’s minicamp. Showing some versatility in camp is a sure way for the rookies to stand out.
The aforementioned, unimpressive veteran depth consists of holdovers Dieter Eiselen (G/C), Lachavious Simmons (T/G), and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (T) [Wheatley was released on Friday]. The Bears added a few veterans this offseason in Willie Wright (C/G), Dakota Dozier (G), and Julién Davenport (T).
The holdovers are unproven and long shots to stick around, and among the three depth veterans I only see a path to the week one roster for Davenport.
Teams have already begun cutting some veterans, and that’ll continue as teams ramp up their offseason programs. Then once training camp gets underway they’ll be another slow trickle of vet o-linemen that become available.
The Bears don’t have much cap space right now, but they can make another veteran in the trenches work. Right guard remains a frightening hole for Chicago, but a better tackle option would be a welcome addition as well.