Dating back to earlier this offseason, one of the Chicago Bears‘ biggest weaknesses has been up front with their offensive line.
As the offseason lingered on, fans grew frustrated with the lack of moves made in this area by first-year general manager Ryan Poles. Now, the offense is finally on a roll thanks to Luke Getsy and Justin Fields, but protection is still an issue.
Despite what some outlets may say about starting center Sam Mustipher, he has been god-awful this season. The fans know it. They see it every single week, play-in and play-out. For the sake of Fields’ overall health and continuing to run the ball well, the Bears have to find a way to get Mustipher on the bench.
Unfortunately, veteran Lucas Patrick went on IR a couple of weeks ago and that makes things tougher to navigate. However, there is still one other option the Bears could try if they wanted to improve the line as a whole.
Left Tackle: Braxton Jones
Left Guard: Alex Leatherwood
Center: Cody Whitehair
Right Guard: Teven Jenkins
Right Tackle: Riley Reiff
Benching Sam Mustipher is almost a ‘must’ at this point, and the Chicago Bears have to make sure they protect their quarterback.
Earlier on this season, we saw Fields take a beating in a prime time game against the Washington Commanders. Previous to that, Fields was roughed up quite a bit against the Green Bay Packers. Both of those games were examples of Mustipher’s horrific play — and should have been the last straw.
Going with the above offensive line has a few positives and reasons behind it.
First of all, Whitehair knows how to play center and is much more capable than Mustipher. He’s the veteran. He’s trusted. He is more than capable. That should put everyone’s mind at ease when it comes to pressure right up the middle.
Secondly, throwing Leatherwood in at guard is a little bit of a risk. However, it could pay off in a big way. He is a recent first-round pick, cut by the Las Vegas Raiders after they decided not to use him correctly; instead, trying to fit a round peg into a square hole by playing him at left tackle.
Leatherwood is essentially auditioning for the rest of his pro career, and fits much better at guard in a zone scheme — which is exactly what the Bears use. He’s young, he’s a mauler at the guard position, and should be given a chance. He might just surprise us, proving he indeed belongs.
At right tackle, Larry Borom has been beaten like a drum on multiple occasions this season. Because of that, inserting Reiff is a no-brainer. The veteran tackle has played well this year when given the opportunity, especially when it comes to pass protection.
Protecting Fields is priority number one when it comes to the line, right now. The Bears are going to run the ball down their opponents’ throat every game. That’s a given. That’s who they are. But, protecting Fields is the difference between a good offense and an offense that could be truly explosive.
This combo should be used in the near future, and if it works, it should be the way to go for the remainder of the year.