It wasn’t long ago that the Chicago Bears offensive line was considered a strength of the team. They were one of the best in the NFL in 2018. The Bears’ starting five was a big reason why the team went 12-4 and won the NFC North that year, but that wasn’t the case in 2019. Chicago’s offensive line had a lot to do with the team’s underwhelming 8-8 season.
As a result, the Bears’ starting group isn’t getting much respect entering the 2020 season. According to Pro Football Focus’ recent ranking of all 32 offensive lines, Chicago checks in at No. 22.
The Bears regressed from a fringe top-10 offensive line in 2018 to the 25th-ranked unit last season despite most of the group remaining intact. Left tackle Charles Leno saw the biggest drop-off in play, as he had four straight seasons grading in the 70s from 2015 to 2018 but finished at just 58.6 overall last season, good for just 64th out of 82 qualifiers. Leno earned his worst pass-blocking grade since 2015 while posting the lowest run-blocking grade of his career, at 47.5.
While PFF’s ranking isn’t great, there was a bit of optimism baked in. The analytics powerhouse still believes in the o-line’s potential.
The Bears have the pieces to rank among the top 10-15 offensive lines in the league, but they need the tackles to get back to their 2018 form to go with progression from at least two players on the interior.
One of the big reasons why the Bears’ offensive line struggled last year was the aftermath of Kyle Long’s injury. Rashaad Coward was elevated to the first team; Cody Whitehair and James Daniels swapped positions. The best offensive lines have continuity, and that was lost in 2019.
With Germain Ifedi stepping into the right guard spot in 2020, and both Whitehair and Daniels settled in at center and left guard, the Bears will begin this season in much better shape and with a much better chance to return to the level of play we saw in 2018.
Bears offensive line ranked 22nd in NFL by Pro Football Focus originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago