Bears’ O line, not receivers, biggest threat to Justin Fields’ growth – NBC Chicago

Why the Bears’ O line, not the WRs, is the biggest threat to Fields’ growth originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears’ wide receiving body has been the the subject of strong criticism this offseason. Well Named.

Unsurprisingly, Chicago saw Allen Robinson leave in free agency and only added Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown in free agency. The Bears used their third-round draft pick against Velus Jones Jr. of Tennessee.

While the wide receiver group is cause for concern for Justin Fields as he enters Year 2, it’s not the biggest problem facing a Bears team trying to prepare for the quarterback. -second-year fullback to success.

This distinction belongs to the offensive line.

The fastest way to hurt a young quarterback is not to protect him.

Last season, the Bears offensive line ranked 22nd in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. The Bears’ O line ranked 24th in the PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency metric and allowed the 10th-most pressures in the NFL at 194.

This unit has gotten worse this offseason. Jason Peters, 40, who was Chicago’s top pass blocker last season, is gone. The Bears’ second-highest-ranked pass blocker, James Daniels, left in free agency.

The Bears signed Lucas Patrick this offseason. Patrick, who played inside three spots for the Green Bay Packers last season, will likely play center for the Bears. Dakota Dozier, a Minnesota Vikings backup last season, signed to compete for the right guard position with Sam Mustipher. Cody Whitehair will return to left guard, with Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom expected to be the starting tackles.

Here’s a quick look at potential pass blocking stats from the Bears’ starting offensive line from last season, courtesy of PFF.

larry borom
Snaps: 546 (RT), 85 (LT)
Pressures: 32
Bags: 5
Penalties: 4
Success Block Score: 62.7

Cody Whitehair
Snaps: 1,121
Pressures: 33
Bags: 4
Penalties: 5
Success Block Score: 61.3

LucasPatrick
Snaps: 822 (C), 88 (RG), 57 (LG)
Pressures: 21
Bags: 2
Penalties: 6
Success Block Score: 64.3

Dakota Dozier (2020 stats)
Snaps: 1,082
Pressures: 46
Bags: 6
Penalties: 9
Success Block Score: 36.7

Teven Jenkins
Snaps: 157
Pressures: 11
Bags: 2
Penalties: 7
Success Block Score: 54.6

Sam Mustipher
Snaps: 121
Pressures: 28
Bags: 1
Penalties: 5
Success Block Score: 61.7

It’s not a pretty picture. But he’s a general manager that Ryan Poles is trying to fix.

Poles, an offensive lineman by trade, is aware the Bears need a facelift early on, and he drafted four O linemen on Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft. Chicago selected tackle Braxton Jones, center Doug Kramer and guards Zachary Thomas and Ja’Tyre Carter.

While all four rookies are development prospects, there could be some openings for guys like Jones or Thomas on the starting offensive line.

“Obviously as a rookie you can’t come in like you’ve already done the job. You’ve got a lot to learn,” Jones said at rookie minicamp. “But while you’re playing, you’re trying to take someone’s job. Everyone’s there to take someone’s job.

“So I try to approach the playbook like a rookie and try to figure it out. Then on the pitch when it comes to finishing and playing hard, you approach that like you’re trying to take the someone’s job.”

Of the five planned starting linemen, Patrick and Whitehair would appear to be cemented at center and left guard, respectively. Borom and Jenkins have the inside lane on starting tackle jobs, but their jobs are far from secure.

The right guard position is wide open. Thomas, who was a tackle at university but come to guard, focuses on refining his technique and not on taking the lead in battle.

“I think right now I’m just trying to learn as much as I can about the game, between college and the NFL, it’s been a bit of a jump,” Thomas told reporters during the minicamp of the NFL. recruits. “We’ll see what happens once the vets are there. But right now I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and really get going.”

But, given Dozier and Mustipher’s suboptimal numbers, there could be an opening for the sixth-round pick to compete for the starting job in training camp.

Fields’ growth should be the Bears’ top priority this season as they enter the first year of a rebuild under the Poles and new head coach Matt Eberflus.

It’s easier and sexier to discuss skill positions as the biggest issue facing Fields and the offense this season. But the offensive line, if it performs similar to last season, will be a greater detriment to Fields’ growth than not having a “true No. 1 receiver.”

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy plans to build his offense around Fields’ strengths. We’ll likely see a lot of out-of-the-box runs and smuggling action to use Fields’ athleticism and create easy throws to receivers in space.

Executing a system tailored to quarterbacks should help Fields in Year 2. But if he’s under constant pressure, it doesn’t matter who he throws at or what plan the Bears are leading.

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Lance B. Holton