One of the often-repeated phrases around Bears training camp by players and coaches alike on offense is "iron sharpens iron."
The hope is facing a strong defense each day will improve the quality of the offense, and this is open to debate based on past production.
However, if there is something to this then guard Germain Ifedi has the chance to come out like an iron man. As Ifedi makes a switch to guard from tackle, he was first going against Akiem Hicks in practice every day and after Hicks went out sometimes faced up against nose tackle-end Bilal Nichols.
"Yeah, they do a great job of giving me multiple looks and keeping me off balance," Ifedi said. "So Akiem has been great for me, great for my transition back to guard. And Bilal is a younger guy, but he has an arsenal of pass-rush moves and not knowing about him much coming in, he's a really impressive player. And he does impressive things every practice and he's made me get a lot better."
Hicks has been out since late last week due to a quad injury.
"I think you get a feel for you know what, you know that Germain can match up with 96," offensive line coach Juan Castillo said. "He can match up with his quickness, he can match up with his size, he's playing square, he's using his hands."
The transition Ifedi made from right tackle with Seattle to right guard in Chicago hasn't necessarily been a difficult one. It's right in Ifedi's comfort zone.
"It's something that I've done in the past and when the move first happened I just lean on my experience, lean on the amount of football I've been blessed to play over the last few years," Ifedi said.
He started at guard for 13 games as a rookie in 2016 with Seattle, but has been almost entirely a tackle since them.
"It's still a transition a lot of days, just seeing different things, seeing different looks I haven't seen in a while," Ifedi said. "It's been fruitful. It's been a good transition, and we're continuing to build, and continuing to get better every day. And I'm challenging myself to get better every day."
The guard position is perceived as a little less complicated technique-wise. While play happens quicker inside, Ifedi doesn't have to stay square and in front of an edge rusher now and it shows in his run blocking. He's adopting a bit of a road-grader mentality again.
"It's fun, when I'm able to just come off the ball on a three-technique or a shade or whatever the (defensive) guy('s) lined up in, it's always fun," Ifedi said. "You kind of miss that at tackle a little bit. You kind of miss being in the middle where you got to move a guy off his spot and those types of things.
"It's fun. It's fun ball. And it really helps you impose your will on guys and we have no better people to do it against than our defense. They have big, strong guys that play guys inside so they challenge me everyday to be right with my technique and continue to build on it because if you're going to be a road-grader you got to be able to show that consistently."
Castillo insists Rashaad Coward will still, "get a chance against" Hicks in practice, but it sounds almost as if the decision has been made on Ifedi as a starter already.
Besides, the Bears offense had Coward playing one of the backup tackle spots in practices this week because there was a lack of experience at swing tackle after Jason Spriggs went out with a knee sprain.
Playing guard isn't all road grading. Pass blocking remains important and on Wednesday at practice the whole line suffered in this area.
Actually sacking the quarterback isn't allowed but the whistle blows when it's deemed the defense was close enough to the quarterback for it to be a sack. The whistle blew an awful lot at Wednesday's practice, even while the quarterbacks enjoyed one of their best practices.
"We're all still learning," Ifedi said. "We're all still getting better and catching up, as the whole league is, just playing catch-up. And some days, you know, communication might not be where we want as an offensive line.
"That starts with the first group and second group. We all learn it together, so just going back to the drawing board about our assignments. It gets hot, it was a longer day than we've had, so that challenges younger guys. That challenges all of us to be ... we all had our mental stuff today. So that challenges everybody."
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