The offensive line for the Chicago Bears has me most concerned as the team readies itself for 2022 training camp (and I’m not alone), but it’s also the position group I’m most excited to see come together. There are some young players with huge opportunities in front of them, and seeing how the starting five settles in is going to be one of the more intriguing storylines to watch these coming weeks.
The Bears are either banking on this group gelling or they’re waiting to see if any veterans are cut loose, because as it stands right now there are more question marks among the 15 offensive linemen in camp then there are trustworthy players.
Training camp opens up on July 27, with the first preseason game on August 13, but I have a feeling the offensive line will be fluctuating all summer long.
Here’s how the current starting five are lining up after Chicago’s OTA practices; LT Braxton Jones (rookie), LG Cody Whitehair, C Lucas Patrick, RG Sam Mustipher, RT Larry Borom.
All those guys are roster locks as the team is currently constructed. But if general manager Ryan Poles brings in a vet starting right guard, then that could place Mustipher on the bubble if some young players step up, but that’s a big if, so for now Sam is a lock. Mustipher may not fit the athletic profile of the new regime, but he’s experienced (24 starts in two years), he has a high football IQ, and he’s making just $895,000.
EDIT: Chicago signed Michael Schofield the night before the Bears were to report to training camp, and once he’s up to speed he’ll likely assume to starting right guard spot.
As for the tackle position, the Bears have another in the mix for a starting spot in second year pro Teven Jenkins. According to Larry Mayer, senior writer on the team site, Jenkins was the starting right tackle for their first six OTA practices with Borom on the left side, but then Borom moved to the right with Jones at left for their last six practices.
EDIT: And on the day the Bears reported they signed tackle Riley Reiff, who is being paid starter money, but there has been no announcement on which side he’ll be at.
Head coach Matt Eberflus has consistently said that no decisions have been made on the o-line, so once the pads come there could be another change. I can’t see Jenkins not being one of their top 5 on the line, so stay tuned for that first practice next Wednesday to see what happens.
A good bet to make it
If the Bears open up with nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster then there are three more to go, but there are only two that I feel are real good bets to make it.
Veteran Julie’n Davenport has the experience (60 games, 32 starts) to stick around, but if he’s forced into any significant action that could be a problem for the Bears. Like most backup offensive tackles Davenport struggles against speed. He has good length (6’7”, 315), and is decent enough as a run blocker, but he’ll need chip help if starting.
Besides Jones, Zach Thomas is the one rookie that makes the most sense to land on the roster. The college tackle has been working at guard and when the Bears were short handed on the interior it was Thomas that was pulling in some work with the ones.
On the bubble
The other two rookies, tackle tuned guard Ja’Tyre Carter and center Doug Kramer, both feel like practice squadders to me, although it would not surprise me to see the Bears just decide to go young and open up with them both on the 53-man roster.
Undrafted free agent Jean Delance is another guy destined for a spot on the 16-man practice squad if he can show some positional versatility.
Dieter Eiselen and Lachavious Simmons return to show the new regime what they have, but between them they have 1 start and 5 games appeared in the last two years. Eiselen
Willie Wright is the first ever signing from Ryan Poles, so he has that going for him, but the 26-year old, 2019 UDFA has yet to appear in an NFL game and was out of football for the 2021 season. EDIT: And he was released.
Shon Coleman (a 2016, 3rd round pick) started all 16 games for the Browns in 2017, but since that time he was traded to the 49ers for a 7th round pick, was inactive the entire 2018 season, sat out the 2019 season on IR with an ankle injury, opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID, went on IR early in 2021 before being waived, signed a reserve/future deal with the Colts in January of 2022, waived a few months later, then signed by the Bears.
I really think a veteran or two will be added at some point, because this depth listed above is frighteningly thin.