I don't remember the last time I was this excited to watch the offensive line of the Chicago Bears perform. There are still some questions on how the starting five will gel and develop individually, but there is no question about who'll be lining up from left to right. The potential is there for this group to make a marked improvement over last year's quintet.
Chicago's starting five is just oozing with potential as a unit. Left tackle Braxton Jones played every snap as a rookie a season ago and got better as the year wore on. Left guard Teven Jenkins was the Bears' best o-lineman in 2022, and he's had all offseason to prep for his move from the right side. The savvy veteran Cody Whitehair will be an upgrade at center and be the glue that holds it all together. Nate Davis comes over from Tennessee with 54 starts in four years at right guard. Rookie first-round draft pick Darnell Wright was the best pass blocking tackle in college football, and he has Pro Bowl upside.
Jones is the only lineman that returns in the same position as 2022, so it may take time for these guys to truly get comfortable with each other, but it will click, and when it does, they could be a top 15 group.
Of course, health will factor in with the starters because both Jenkins and Whitehair have a bit of a history with injuries, but they've done a lot of work this offseason and are in the... you guessed it... the best shape of their lives!
The reserves really only have one proven entity, and even Lucas Patrick is coming off a down and injury-plagued season. He played one-handed for most of 2022, but he has 39 starts in 80 career games at center and guard, so Bears fans have likely never seen him at his best.
Larry Borom appears to be the swing tackle, and he's had an up-and-down two years in the league. He's played both tackle spots plus some guard in his 23 appearances and 17 starts. Coaches want him leaner and quicker for their zone-blocking scheme, but Borom is a lock as the roster stands right now.
A good bet to make it
The Bears liked the upside of Ja'Tyre Carter so much as a rookie last year that they kept him on the 53-man roster the entire season even though he was inactive all but three games with 35 total snaps. Last year was his first playing the interior after a successful college career at left tackle with Southern.
Carter was one of three Bears, along with Jones and Jenkins, that attended the O-Line Masterminds Summit to improve their knowledge and technique. He also worked with former Bear Olin Kreutz this offseason.
Even though he did line up with the ones at right guard during the OTA practices that Davis missed, he's so unproven I can't call him a 100% lock — but I will go 99%.
On the bubble
The Bears opened the 2022 season with nine offensive linemen, but they carried eight at times during the year. If the Bears keep a ninth in 2023, it'll probably be between Alex Leatherwood and Dieter Eiselen. Leathwood comes with a first-round pedigree, but he was awful as a rookie in Las Vegas, and last year he struggled after returning after a bout with mono. Eiselen enters his fourth year with the Bears, and in 2022 he was active for a career-high 11 games as a reserve center/guard.
Kellen Diesch was on the Bears' practice squad all of 2022, but he has the athletic traits the coaches look for. I'm curious to see how he performs during training camp.
Doug Kramer is recovered after an injury stole his entire rookie season, but he'll likely need to prove he can play more than just center to earn a spot on the practice squad.
Also in camp are undrafted rookies Robert Haskins, Gabriel Houy, Josh Lugg, and Lorenz Metz, and thanks to the International Player Pathway Program, they'll get Roy Mbaeteka during training camp too. The Bears have an international player practice squad exemption for Mbaeteka, so they'll be able to develop him all year.
Which o-linemen do you have as locks to make the opening day 53-man roster?