As the Chicago Bears begin their training camp this week, we’re taking a look at the positional battles that are likely going to develop on the practice fields of Bourbonnais.
Today, we’re taking a look at the team’s offensive line.
The Bears are bringing back all five starters from a season ago, with Charles Leno Jr. and Robby Massie manning the tackle positions, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long playing at the guard spots, and James Daniels manning the middle in the center position.
That group is back with good reason, as they managed to keep Mitchell Trubisky upright through much of the year. The Bears allowed 33 sacks as a team last year, tied with the Rams for the seventh-best mark in the NFL, and that allowed Trubisky to maneuver in the pocket and to make plays down the field in the face of some tough pass rushes.
The one slight change that will be made permanent in the coming year is moving Daniels to center and Whitehair to left guard. That move is going to have some big benefits for the Bears, as the positions favor the players’ particular skillsets and physical traits.
The Bears will likely keep either eight or nine offensive linemen on the roster, with Bradley Sowell's conversion to tight end giving the team a bit of flexibility on what they can do with that final roster spot or two.
We’re looking at players like Ted Larsen and Rashaad Coward as virtual locks to make the roster, and a few other players have caught our eyes as potential candidates for reserve roles. In late May, the Bears signed former Vikings starting tackle T.J. Clemmings, and although under normal circumstances he would be a virtual lock for the squad, he is beginning the preseason on the Physically Unable to Perform list, which throws that status into a least a little bit of doubt until he returns to the mix.
Alex Bars and Joe Lowrey could potentially find themselves in the mix as well, with both players having the ability to play the guard position. Health concerns with Kyle Long could lead the Bears to keep one of the players on the roster, but it isn’t a guarantee at this point that the team will roll with nine linemen.
Odd Men Out:
In our estimation, the Bears will keep eight linemen, including the five starters and Coward, Clemmings, and Larson as the reserves. Bars and Lowrey will battle for a possible reserve spot, but both could be cut when the team slashes its roster from 90 players down to 53 for the start of the regular season.
For more of NBC Chicago's coverage of the Bears' position battles: