Bears Hope They Found Something in Latest Offensive Line Change

A series of offensive line injuries and illness made it difficult to establish continuity in run blocking but the Bears actually saw some improvement in Sunday's blowout loss.
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Several weeks ago Germain Ifedi addressed the topic of a few days away on the Reserve/COVID-19 list before returning to play the same week without much practice.

"It's big, especially for an offensive lineman, a position that's all about timing and being in the right spots," Ifedi said. "It's tough to go off a week off and do that."

Now consider what the entire Bears offensive line has been through since Week 5 when James Daniels suffered the first injury of many they've had, a torn pectoral muscle. In the seven weeks since then they've had five other offensive lines, six total lineups for the year.

For two games Rashaad Coward came in, then everything fell to pieces with the COVID-19 list for center Cody Whitehair, a knee injury for right tackle Bobby Massie, a knee injury and COVID-19 list for backup tackle Jason Spriggs and a knee injury for backup center Sam Mustipher.

Perhaps Charles Leno Jr. deserved a valor award for playing through a painful toe injury last week, considering what they've been through.

Continuity is big, as Ifedi said, and offensive line coach Juan Castillo has had to mix and match square pegs in round holes. He put Alex Bars at three different starting line positions, Ifedi kicked out to right tackle where he'd struggled as a Seattle Seahawk, and now Whitehair has returned but at left guard while Mustipher went back in at center.

Massie was their most effective blocker according to Pro Football Focus, with a 72.6 rating. He is eligible to come off injured reserve this week, although there has been no indication he's ready.

They may need to stick with last week's offensive line using Mustipher at center because he'd shown an ability to step right in and handle a starting assignment against New Orleans and Tennessee.

Castillo describes Mustipher as a classic overachiever.

"A smart person that doesn't know anything but 110%," Castillo said. "When we got here, I talked about putting on weight. He was about 305 or so, and now he’s 320 pounds. There's a difference, you know, 10-15 pounds make a big difference, you know.

"And he's done all the extra work. He's got a big heart, very smart, very competitive. You know, guys like that, sometimes all they need is an opportunity. And that's what he has, and so far he's making the best of it."

Castillo could have gone to Rashaad Coward at left guard and simply put Whitehair back to center, but saw something in Mustipher.

"I think he's good for the group," Castillo said. "The way he plays is like a construction worker, pounding away every play. He plays every play."

The new lineup Sunday night opened the way for the best team rushing effort since Week 3, albeit in a blowout loss. Castillo gave credit to Leno for making the difference on the career-long 57-yard run by David Montgomery in the game.

"It's a play where it's kind of like an option-type play, and what happened is Charles did a good job of blocking the read guy," Castillo said.

They have some hope now for starting up the running game since they just did it, and seem to have established a little continuity—at least until the next lineup change.

Bears 2020 Starting Offensive Lines

Bears Starting Offensive Line Changes

Date, OpponentLeft TackleLeft GuardCenterRight GuardRight Tackle

Sept. 13 at Lions

Charles Leno Jr.

James Daniels

Cody Whitehair

Germain Ifedi

Bobby Massie

Oct. 18 at Panthers

Charles Leno Jr.

Rashaad Coward

Cody Whitehair

Germain Ifedi

Bobby Massie

Nov. 1 Saints

Charles Leno Jr.

Rashaad Coward

Sam Mustipher

Germain Ifedi

Bobby Massie

Nov. 8 at Tiitans

Charles Leno Jr.

Arlington Hambright

Alex Bars

Germain Ifedi

Rashaad Coward

Nov. 16 Vikings

Charles Leno Jr.

Rashaad Coward

Cody Whitehair

Germain Ifedi

Alex Bars

Nov. 29 at Packers

Charles Leno Jr.

Cody Whitehair

Sam Mustipher

Alex Bars

Germain Ifedi

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