Out of line: How the Bears’ offensive line got this bad and how soon they can fix it

Out of line: How the Bears’ offensive line got this bad and how soon they can fix it

Nick Foles is somewhere in this crowd, getting sacked as Rashaad Coward (69) and Charles Leno (72) watch. | Getty

The answers aren’t encouraging. Left tackle Charles Leno is near-certain to be back in 2021. Germain Ifedi isn’t the answer at right guard, so they’ll be starting over at that spot. They can cut right tackle Bobby Massie for a $2.6 million dead salary-cap hit.

In the endless argument over what the Bears’ biggest problem is, coach Matt Nagy seems to think it’s their offensive line.

His own decisions and disheartening quarterback play are strong candidates, too, but it’s clear many of the Bears’ plays never have a chance.

As Nagy battled an onslaught of questions about the Bears’ failures on offense, he cut through the babble and pointed at his line.

“Here’s probably the biggest thing to look at for everybody, and just for myself, playing quarterback my entire life: Quarterback[ing] is hard is when you can’t step into your throws,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing we want to make sure with our offensive line.”

That doesn’t excuse Nick Foles, but it’s a factor. This unit has been a liability for two seasons and hit a new low against the Rams.

Right guard Germain Ifedi torpedoed the opening drive with a holding penalty, left guard Rashaad Coward scuttled a fourth-and-one try with a false start and the most infuriating lapse was an across-the-board failure with the game on the line.

Nagy was certain Foles would’ve hit Darnell Mooney for a game-tying, 95-yard touchdown if not for his line misreading the pass rush and allowing outside linebacker Jachai Polite to rush in unfettered. He threw off his back foot and it went incomplete.

The examples go on and on, but here’s the essential question: How did the Bears get here and what can they do?

Nagy had no meaningful response to that. There’s not much he can do personnel-wise, and the idea that new o-line coach Juan Castillo would transform these guys into a wall was a fantasy.

“It’s hard when you’re in this scenario,” Nagy said. “You start thinking, ‘OK, is it this guy? Is it that guy?’ The only choice we have right now, probably, would be that we have to pull together… I wish I had a better answer for you.

“I am not going to criticize or challenge any of our guys’ effort, but something is obviously off.”

There was also something obviously off in general manager Ryan Pace’s construction.

Left tackle Charles Leno got a four-year, $37 million contract that will almost certainly keep him on the roster in 2021. Pro Football Focus classifies him as a disaster in run and pass blocking, and he’s been flagged 15 times in his last 23 games.

Right tackle Bobby Massie got four years, $31 million, but the Bears can get out of that for a $2.6 million dead cap hit after this season. That’s the most promising part of this whole conversation. That’s it. That’s the high point.

Coward is playing because James Daniels is out for the season, though the o-line trouble predates that injury. Other than the debacle of trying him at center last season, Daniels is thought to be an NFL starter.

Center Cody Whitehair looks like the one sure thing on the line, and he’s on a five-year, $51.3 million deal. He missed practice Wednesday with a calf injury, but Nagy was optimistic about him playing Sunday against the Saints.

The idea that Pace would survey this ramshackle line and believe signing Ifedi would fix it is astounding. He was the Seahawks’ first-round pick at tackle in 2016, and they declined his fifth-year option. One reason might have been that he’s been the most penalized player in the NFL since 2016 with 46 flags, including 23 false starts and 18 holding calls.

Among the many fascinating anecdotes from the broadcast was Rams star Aaron Donald telling ESPN’s crew that going against Ifedi would be like Christmas morning.

“He said, ‘He just looks uncomfortable in there at guard… Quite honestly, I’m looking forward to the opportunity,’” one of the analysts said.

That’s troubling, but then again every defensive player is eager to face the Bears’ offensive line. And there’s no clear path to changing that anytime soon.

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