Germain Ifedi Has Complete Bears Confidence

A year after he left Seattle as an unwanted offensive lineman, Germain Ifedi has convinced the Bears and line coach Juan Castillo he is not just a starting lineman but a right tackle.
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Offensive linemen and line coaches like to simplify the game by saying the best five will go on the field regardless of position and then they'll play together and develop into a cohesive unit.

Maybe it was this way long ago but in football today specialization is as much a part of the offensive line as at any spot. 

The linemen will fight you on this. Bears rookie Tevin Jenkins likes to point to how he can play any offensive line position if needed, although he hasn't had to snap in games.

The Bears really won't be putting all their linemen together in a group to choose the best five and let them play. They have actual positions. 

Since they apparently like Sam Mustipher at center, the only spot where competition is likely to occur on the line for a starting spot is right tackle. It shouldn't be a heated battle because Germain Ifedi has impressed line coach Juan Castillo to the point where he almost seems ready to purchase an Ifedi jersey. He predicted a possible Pro Bowl for Ifedi a year after Seattle didn't want him.

"This is a big 36 1/2-inch arm, 345-pound guy," Castillo said. "As we talk, he's busting his ass in Texas in 100-degree weather. Works as hard as any guy I've been around."

Even then, Castillo found reasons to think the right tackle competition can be tighter. It's the rookie who will be vying with Ifedi, Larry Borom from Missouri.

"I know Germain's going to get mad at me, but he is a better athlete than Germain," Castillo said.  

Borom was 352 pounds, lost 30 pounds, is adding some back and is determined to win the right tackle position. 

So, apparently is Ifedi, who looks to have gotten a bit leaner but stronger.

Former Broncos guard and tackle Elijah Wilkinson can play the position, as well. But the Bears put him on the left side during offseason work until he suffered a minor injury, and Jenkins then went in there. 

Jenkins is supposed to stay there and start as a rookie. 

Wilkinson actually figures to have a shot at being right tackle backup based on his experience starting at that position in Denver. If Borom can adjust to blocking NFL level defensive players, he could move up the ladder in camp. 

There are reasons it could be a close competition at the position, but good reasons it shouldn't.

Right Tackle Battle at a Glance

Favorite: Germain Ifedi

Chances to win spot: 4 on a scale of 1-5.

Challenger: Larry Borom.

Insurance Policy: Elijah Wilkinson.

As much as the Bears like what they've seen of Ifedi, he's only a year removed from a penalty-filled career in Seattle. The Bears have to be certain they can depend on the same type of play as he had last year in the final six games when he moved to tackle from right guard. And those six games included battles against four struggling defenses in Detroit, Minnesota, Jacksonville and Houston.

He didn't play poorly against Green Bay twice and in the playoff loss to New Orleans during that stretch, however.

Last year Ifedi played more snaps than any Bears offensive lineman, 1,115. He allowed only one sack after moving to tackle and one as a guard after giving up 21 in his Seattle career.

His penalties came down from 13 in 2019 with Seattle to five with the Bears. 

So he's not surprised Castillo has said he can be a Pro Bowl player. 

"That's my expectation, you know coach (Matt) Nagy, that's (GM) Ryan (Pace's) expectation, that's coach Castillo's expectation and I try to live up to that every day because they took a chance on me, they believed in me and I'm going to give them everything I've got," Ifedi said.

If Ifedi regresses as a pass blocker, Borom seems to have a lot of confidence for a rookie.

"My strength is I feel like I can pass protect with the best of them, and I'm a big body that can run off the ball," Borom said.  

Borom isn't alone in this belief. He might have been a fifth-round draft pick but he was the only starting college tackle in the country to allow no pressures last year according to Pro Football Focus.

"We're excited," Castillo said. "We're going to put him over there behind Germain and let him compete with Germain."

With those three at right tackle, they believe they have the position covered. And all three have played guard in the past, so they'd be covered if something happened to right guard James Daniels or left guard Cody Whitehair.

It's obvious there is depth there, but now they need high quality of play from the winner of this starting camp battle.

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