By Bryan Dietzler
Training camp has started for the Bears and we are starting to get an idea of what we can expect from some of the players. We have seen that Mike Glennon can get the ball out to his receivers well but still has some things to learn. If he gets some protection, he should be able to complete a few passes and keep the ball moving down the field.
Some of what will help Glennon succeed is getting great protection. The Bears offensive line is responsible for that of course and is set to make significant strides this season. They have had some injured players coming back and have bolstered the depth. The thought is that this offensive line, as it is right now, could be the best in several seasons. Let’s hope it is, for the Bears sake.
The following is a look at the Bear’s offensive tackles and centers currently on the roster, in training camp. There is a quick look back at where they have been before this season and some thoughts on what this writer thinks about their ability and where they should stand at the when the preseason ends.
As always, please feel free to share your opinions about the players featured in this article
The Chicago Bears signed Compton as a free agent this offseason after he spent the previous year with the Atlanta Falcons. During 2016, he didn’t play often proving he was a backup and not much more. Now, Chicago will rely on him to back up and step in and start as needed. But he may only be able to start for a short period and is not an effective long-term starter. So let’s hope the Bears don’t need him to be a full-time starter.
Outlook: The Bears are going to want to make sure they evaluate Compton closely. Unless he is horrible, I think that Chicago will keep him on the roster to start the season. Hopefully, neither Bobby Massie nor Charles Leno, Jr., the projected starters, go down for a long period. The Bears need Compton on the bench.
Charles Leno, Jr.
Last year’s starter at left tackle is back and will slide right back into his starting role. Leno does not make a lot of mistakes but he isn’t a dynamic, top tier offensive tackle. This writer is surprised the Bears didn’t try to go out and find a replacement during the offseason. It just shows that Chicago is content with him at left tackle, for now.
Outlook: I don’t think that there is anyone in the lineup right now who can replace Leno. He will be the starter at the left tackle position and remain there, with good health, for the entire season. Hopefully, he can help keep it up and play well for the entire season. But next offseason, I suspect the Bears will look for his replacement.
I criticized Massie a lot last season, especially early on he struggled. Massie did firm things up as the season went on but was not “spectacular.” He will be the Bears starting right tackle again this year, barring a disaster, leaving as many questions as there are answers. The Bears should have shored this position up in free agency but failed to do so. Now it’s another year with Massie.
Outlook: Unless Chicago works a trade for a right tackle before the season Massie is our guy. Not spectacular by any means, he is serviceable and will have to get the Bears through the 2017 season. Let’s hope he can keep it together another year until the Bears (hopefully) find someone better suited to man the position.
Joseph came to Chicago as an undrafted free agent this offseason and has a shot at making the practice squad but not the active roster. He has a lot of raw talent that needs to develop and he can get that kind of help if he lands on the practice squad. He came into the league with skill, especially in pass protection. But his mechanics need some work and his footwork isn’t the best.
I think that Joseph will end up on the practice squad and develop for the future. If he doesn’t end up in Chicago, he will wind up on the practice squad of another team. He needs more practice reps, as well, to show the coaching staff what he has to offer. He’s an intriguing prospect but not one who is ready to make an impact in the NFL yet.
Sowell arrived in Chicago this offseason as a free agent. He has played with the Indianapolis Colts, the Arizona Cardinals and more recently the Seattle Seahawks. Sowell has six years of experience starting just 21 games in that span. Like Compton, he’s a good backup who can step into the lineup in a pinch but won’t be a good long term option as a starter.
Outlook: I think that the Bears like Sowell’s experience and they will keep him unless one of the younger guys is good and can supplant him. That is not out of the question. I think that Sowell sticks and rides the bench for the entire 2017 season unless there is an injury.
Greene has been with the Bears as an undrafted free agent having played tight end at Alabama. He was projected to be a guard when he came into the NFL and has the size to play that position. Greene is very raw but gives the Bears some backup at the guard position.
Outlook: Greene is almost strictly backup material and will not make the active roster. If Chicago thinks he’s good enough, they will place him on the practice squad and see how he develops. Keep an eye on him and let’s see how he does this preseason. He just might be good enough to develop further.
Boggs is a center who came to the Bears this year after a stint with the Cardinals. Interestingly, Boggs was with the Bears in 2013 for the entire season. In 2014, he participated in four games but was hurt and received an injury settlement. He was let go in October. Last year in Arizona he ended his season on the injured reserve list.
Outlook: Health has always been an issue for Boggs. He has only been healthy for one full season. If he can prove he can stay upright, I think that he will be the backup center for the Bears in 2017. With the injury to Eric Kush forcing Chicago to move some personnel around, it would appear as if Boggs has a shot. The Bears are going to have to decide if Hroniss Grasu is going to be a backup center or guard while Whitehair settles in as the starting center. That will dictate what happens to Boggs. Right now, it looks as if Boggs will be a backup guard.
It’s possible Grasu could be moved to a backup guard spot depending on what happens with the depth at that position. There has been one devastating injury to the guard position which has set things askew early in camp. With Eric Kush out of the lineup, it’s likely that Grasu will shift over to guard and be a backup there. But for now he remains a backup center and I will consider him a center for this review.
Outlook: I think that Grasu is a safe bet to make the team and develop even further in year three. Remember that he missed the entire season last year and has a lot to catch up on. He could fill in at center in a pinch but he will spend most of his time backing up at guard. Unless Chicago figures Boggs can’t make it as a backup center then Grasu will backup Whitehair.
Whitehair was one of Chicago’s most consistent performers last season and that was a treat for Bears fans. He helped make Chicago’s offensive line on of the best in recent memory and is poised to better in year two. It’s kind of tough to predict what might happen to him this season, however. If either Kyle Long or Josh Sitton get injured, he could be thrust into action at one of their spots. That would force him to vacate the center position and leave Hroniss Grasu as the center, possibly.
Outlook: If Whitehair plays center all season, he could be a Pro Bowl player. He was almost deserving of the honor last year but surely fell just short. He has the tools to be one of the best centers in the NFL. If he can stay healthy, he will shine and be a Pro Bowl center in 2017.