Bears begin building new identity for offensive line


LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- A former offensive lineman himself, Bears general manager Ryan Poles wants his offensive line to be nasty. He hopes to see an edge from the group and a clear desire to protect the quarterback and also to fight on each play.

That's the identity the Bears are looking to forge this offseason and sustain in the years to come under a new regime.

“Football is played a certain way,” said veteran center Lucas Patrick, whom the Bears signed in March. “It's not a contact sport. It's a collision sport. And we as the offensive line have two duties whether it's run or pass. If it's a run, we're denting the defense. If it's a pass, we're setting a wall. That's the expectation that every man should have when they put on a Chicago Bears helmet as an offensive lineman.”

As the Bears held their second practice of OTAs on Tuesday afternoon, the focus was on technique and positioning more than physicality. The team is still more than two months away from strapping on the pads and buckling up the chinstraps for the first time. For a new-look offensive line, certainty is still far away.

The five-year veteran Patrick is penciled in as the Bears’ starter at center and Cody Whitehair, whom this regime inherited, is likely to return as the starter at left guard. Beyond those two positions, it remains unclear how the offensive line will take shape. Sam Mustipher and veteran Dakota Dozier are battling to fill the void at right guard. Larry Borom is getting the initial chance at left tackle, while Teven Jenkins has shifted to right tackle. Rookie Braxton Jones, whom Chicago selected in the fifth round, could also factor into the competition at tackle.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus and his staff have lived up to their early promise of providing a clean slate for each player they inherited. A key component of that comes by seeing them live in a full-contact, full-speed practice. New offensive line coach Chris Morgan is preaching that philosophy for his group.

The Bears aren’t making firm decisions on their offensive line until they can see their players practice, Morgan said.

“Right now, it's still way too early,” Morgan said. “It's May. We're not even in pads yet. Right now, we're refining techniques, we're introducing schemes. Right now, everything is fluid.”

Days into training camp in late July, the Bears will begin practicing at full speed and the offensive line picture should become more clear. Poles, Eberflus and Morgan will get to see whether Borom is indeed a better fit protecting the blindside of quarterback Justin Fields and how Jenkins’ tough nature looks to their own eyes. They’ll see how Jones is adjusting to NFL speed, whether there’s a strong internal option at right guard and if any unheralded players are ready to rise.

Above all, the Bears hope to build the identity that Poles seeks. They know it will take some time.

“So fired up that our GM is a former offensive lineman,” Patrick said. “Because I think he gets it to the core what it takes to build an offensive line and it's tough competition, smart -- just like, guys who love football and just want to compete.”

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

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