One Assessment of Bears Offensive Line Strength Shaky at Best

Analysis: Pro Football Focus calls the line a key to Caleb Williams' success this year and ranks the Bears line 28th overall but their individual grades fail to support such a poor rating.
Teven Jenkins attempts to execute a block at Bears minicamp. The Bears offensive line is ranked 28th by Pro Football Focus.
Teven Jenkins attempts to execute a block at Bears minicamp. The Bears offensive line is ranked 28th by Pro Football Focus. / Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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Apparently, there are questions about the skill level of the player Bears coaches plan to entrust with snapping the football to quarterback Caleb Williams.

At least Pro Football Focus has these doubts. It isn’t spelled out and required a process of elimination to determine, but it is obvious.

The two candidates to date are former Rams starter Coleman Shelton and Bills backup Ryan Bates, who has also been a starting guard in the past. They alternated at minicamp and OTAs.

Williams is called the Bears' reason for optimism in a PFF story this week by Dalton Wasserman assessing the reason for optimism with each NFL team. However, Williams' success or failure is tied in the story to the offensive line. And, according to Wasserman, the Bears have a real problem here.

"The onus will be on the Bears' 28th-ranked offensive line to protect him," Williams wrote. "If they do, they will be protecting a passer who led college football in clean-pocket passing grade last season."

The fact Williams was No. 1 in clean-pocket passing in college last year might surprise some because of his reputation for throwing on extended plays from outside the pocket.

What should really surprise everyone, however, is the Bears offensive line has been ranked 28th by PFF.

Pro Football Network's assessment of all offensive lines had the Bears line 18 spots higher than PFF at No. 10. This might seem too high considering the Bears allowed 50 sacks or more the last three years, but Pro Football Focus' own grades should have them much higher than 28th. ESPN’s analytics had the Bears last year ranked second in run blocking win rate and fifth in pass blocking win rate. This hardly sounds like a 28th-ranked offensive line.

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Both Bears starting tackles are graded in the top half the NFL by PFF.  It's not by much, but both are in the top half. Darnell Wright is 32nd and Braxton Jones 31st. So both are above the halfway cutoff as there are 64 starting tackles in the NFL.

Also, the Bears line came out looking very strong in guard grades even though right guard Nate Davis had a disappointing 2023 and has started his offseason bothered again by injury. Davis is rated 26th among all guards, one ahead of Detroit's Graham Glasgow. Teven Jenkins is 16th overall after two straight years when he was ranked higher than that overall.

So if Bears tackles are both in the top half of the league and both guards are 26th or better, how do they come out as the 28th graded offensive line overall?

 It can only mean their center choices are abysmal. Yet, Shelton was graded 17th among all centers last year as a starter with the Rams, which puts him right in the middle of the league.

It all sounds like PFF didn't do a very accurate assessment of the Bears offensive line.

If that's the case, and it's the line which is going to determine whether Williams succeeds or fails as a rookie, Bears fans should have high expectations for offensive success this year.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven


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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN

BearDigest.com publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS Sports.com and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.