A couple of weeks ago, I wrote on the Bears’ many training camp battles, including those along the OL, mainly RG, which had no clear frontrunner to be the starter. I mentioned how each position likely had a starter in place, but things have somewhat changed this week.
The Bears signed Michael Schofield and Riley Reiff within 48 hours prior to the start of training camp. Even though they missed minicamps, getting them into Halas Hall before training camp gives both guys basically level ground with the other OL on the roster to get a chance to start. So now the question arrives: will these veteran additions start? Or will they just be depth pieces?
From the looks of it, Reiff is almost assured a starting spot. His deal is 1 year worth $10 million at least, and up to $12.5 million total. The Bears lost a little bit of rollover cap with this move, but considering they have so much space in 2023 and needed OL help, it’s a fine overpay. Schofield likely signed for the veteran’s minimum, but many are penciling him in to start at RG as he has the most NFL experience there, starting 3 full seasons there in his career and different parts of other seasons.
First, let’s list every OL position and which players have significant experience in college or the NFL at each position.
LT: Riley Reiff, Braxton Jones, Julie’n Davenport, Zachary Thomas (projected guard in NFL), Ja’Tyre Carter (projected guard)
LG: Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick, Dieter Eiselen
C: Lucas Patrick, Doug Kramer, Sam Mustipher
RG: Michael Schofield, Lucas Patrick,
RT: Larry Borom, Teven Jenkins, Lachavious Simmons, Jean Delance
With these two new signings, let’s peak at possible OL combinations for the Bears (listed left to right)
Reiff, Whitehair, Patrick, Schofield, Davenport
I only list this combination to show the Bears, while they have a lot of 1st and 2nd year guys on the OL, are likely mostly starting veterans, which means lots of cap space will be put to use here in 2023, while draft picks may be put to use on WR. It won’t happen as the Bears are a rebuilding team and need to get young guys out there, though they need some veterans to stabilize the line for Fields.
The Young Ones
Jones, Thomas/Carter, Kramer, Jenkins, Borom
If these guys outperformed the veterans and stole starting jobs, it would actually be great for the Bears. However, it’s too much to expect from rookie OLinemen, let alone guys who were picked on day 3. Thomas and Carter need to move from tackle to guard, and the same goes to Jenkins. Jones is raw, and Borom can’t be the most experience OL starting. Kramer is good but has a low ceiling due to his athletic limitations.
Vets and Young Ones
Jenkins, Whitehair, Patrick, Borom, Reiff
A combination that isn’t impossible. Reiff played RT in Cincinnati last season, and Patrick and Whitehair remain in their projected spots. Here, we have Jenkins nabbing the LT spot, where he played last season, and while he struggled, the possibility remains that can be his long-term position to maximize his draft value. Borom is similar to Jenkins in build, so the possibility exists he too can play guard. Schofield could also nab the RG spot.
Borom, Jenkins, Whitehair, Patrick, Reiff
This seems like a Matt Nagy-Ryan Pace thing to do, to mix it up a lot and shuffle along the OL, which hurt them the past 3 seasons. It’s a chaos line. Borom and Reiff would be interchangeable, Jenkins plays LG with Whitehair returning to center, and Patrick playing RG like he did in Green Bay at times. This is only an emergency lineup, that can be used if everything else is failing and shuffling is absolutely necessary.
The Most Likely Combo(s)
Reiff, Whitehair, Patrick, Jenkins, Borom
Many are putting Schofield in the spot of Jenkins, but as I stated before, Jenkins will get the chance to be a starter at any spot on the line and lock down a position long-term, being a highly-touted 2nd round pick from 2021. Schofield appears to be the floor at RG, which is very good, while Jenkins is the ceiling. Plus some have projected Jenkins as a guard at the NFL level anyway.
The rest of the spots make a ton of sense as well. Reiff has mostly played LT in his career, outside of 2 seasons (including last season in Cincinnati). They’d likely prefer the veteran on Fields’s blindside. Plus, Braxton Jones is still very raw, and Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom played RT in college. Whitehair struggled last season but is still a highly paid player who was solid at LG in 2020. Patrick was brought in to help bring Luke Getsy’s system over, and provides a veteran presence for Fields. Lastly, Borom has mostly been put in starting lineups in minicamp and likely will continue that, albeit on the other side in training camp.
We should expect a better OL and one with more stability and less shuffling around this season compared to 2021, due to the improved personnel and coaching.