Bears Offensive Line Revealing Its Better Form

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- The early struggles of the veteran Bears offensive line were obvious. Each of the five starters could see it, as could position coach Harry Hiestand. To a man, they understood their performance wasn't good enough.

The Bears' entire offense suffered in part because of the poor play up front. For a group that entered the season with great continuity, change was needed. 

That change came in several ways, and the Bears have seen the benefit in a three-game winning streak with the offensive line showing improvement.

"Guys just continue to work," Hiestand said. "They prepare hard. The same group's been together for a little bit. I think we're seeing some benefits there. It's the product of a lot of things. Number one, it's their attitude and their effort. When things aren't going good, it's not always easy to keep pushing forward and keep working to get better. 

"They've been doing that, and I think we're seeing some of the positives of that."

The Bears establishing more of an identity on offense -- they've had better balance as coach Matt Nagy recommitted to the running game -- has gone hand in hand with their line showcasing the consistency it once lacked.

The Bears began rearranging the interior of their line in October, when they shut down veteran guard Kyle Long by placing him on injured reserve. They inserted converted defensive tackle Rashaad Coward at right guard, then eventually swapped Cody Whitehair and James Daniels, with Whitehair moving back to center and Daniels back to left guard, the positions they manned in 2018.

Whitehair's comfort at center has helped his fellow offensive linemen and with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky identify the defensive front and conduct a cleaner operation after the ball is snapped. 

"It just helps with communication and having that leader in the middle, especially with those young guys to the right and to the left of him," Trubisky said of Whitehair. "The communication has been really good."

The Bears refused to publicly acknowledge the struggles of the 2018 second-round pick Daniels at center, but it was clear he received a demotion. He was switched to center in the offseason because the Bears believed he would be a natural fit there. By early November, they began enacting plans to abort and moved Daniels back to guard.

Whitehair's return to center has allowed Coward to settle in as an NFL offensive lineman and Daniels to elevate his play with fewer responsibilities. It has spread to the tackles too, with Charles Leno Jr. thriving at left tackle and Cornelius Lucas filling in well at right tackle. The entire offensive line is more comfortable with Whitehair as its leader.

As the Bears' play-caller, Nagy has better catered his offense to Trubisky by moving the pocket and expediting his release time. The Bears have used more play-action, which defenses must respect as rookie running back David Montgomery carries the ball more. Trubisky is thinking less with fewer reads and has been quicker to run for yardage. That has also limited the time the pass protection needs to hold up.

Montgomery is better adjusting to the speed of the NFL game and is producing with his carries in the past two weeks. It has all led to the Bears having a balanced, efficient offense that better plays to the strengths of Trubisky -- and also benefits the offensive line. 

While there's no statistic to truly measure offensive line play, the group deserves credit for the Bears averaging 5.7 yards per play in their last three games.

It all starts up front, where the Bears' offensive line was challenged and responded.

"We know we have great guys in our room that are competitors and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done," Whitehair said. "It's all about sticking together."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.