Chicago Bears: Changes to the offensive line need to be made

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 10: Cody Whitehair
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 10: Cody Whitehair /

The Chicago Bears’ offensive line is a big reason for the team’s struggles. Something needs to be done for things to turn around.

Since the Chicago Bears lost their Week 5 game against the Oakland Raiders in London things have been tense. Fans complain about the struggling offense while the coaches wonder what they could do to turn things around.

One of the main reasons for the struggles is the offensive line play. They’ve committed too many penalties and have opened too few holes for the running game to get enough yards. Here are the team’s rushing rankings: 26th in rushing yards, 24th in rushing touchdowns, 29th in average yards per rush

Those rankings put added pressure on the passing game. Without help from the running game, defenses can key on the quarterback, making it difficult to get passes off. As a result, the Bears rank 30th in passing yards and 21st in passing touchdowns. In 2017, the season before head coach Matt Nagy came to Chicago, those rankings were 32nd and 31st respectively.

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Nagy came in with the reputation of an offensive-minded coach and a quarterback guru. Under his tutelage, Alex Smith had the best season of his career. He came to Chicago and people expected the same results.

They are still waiting for those results.

The offensive line just hasn’t helped the offense. Against the Raiders, the line committed four penalties that put the offense in a hole. Left tackle Charles Leno committed three of them. Additionally, they allowed four sacks. Three of them came in the first half when the offense couldn’t get anything going and they scored no points.

It got to the point where Nagy talked about going to the dark side to try to fix things. He admitted that the line needed to improve, but didn’t want to put it solely on that, via the Chicago Tribune:

"You’ve got to win your 1-on-1 battles and that’s just not the offensive line, that’s everybody. Whenever you have some places within your game that are struggling, that’s immediately what you go to and so there is a challenge there for all of us to be better and that happens to be that right there. Win your 1-on-1 battle. You win your 1-on-1 battle then good things should happen."

While Nagy talks about everyone trying to win one-on-one battles, the offensive line has trouble in that area. In addition to the penalties committed, they’ve also given up 13 sacks this season.

Some people feel the switch of Cody Whitehair and James Daniels is another reason for the poor line play. A few times this season the line had miscommunication that led to tackles for loss or sacks. There is a call for switching them back, but Nagy indicated that there are no plans for that.

So what changes should be made to the line to help it work better?

They have Alex Bars on the practice squad. They paid him extra money when the New England Patriots came calling. He decided to stay with the Bears. It might be time to promote him to the team.

Bars was an undrafted rookie but very well could have been at least a third-round pick had he not torn his ACL and MCL in his senior season with Notre Dame. We need to see if he indeed is a viable option. Put him in the rotation and see if it gives the group a jump start.

Ted Larsen filled in for Kyle Long in Week 4 and did a pretty good job. He missed the trip to London due to a knee situation but should be ready to play after the bye week. Perhaps having Long play fewer snaps helps keep him fresh and strong. He’s been getting beat bad this season so perhaps the injuries he’s had the past few seasons are catching up to him.

This is a strategy that the Bears should use the rest of the way — use the rotation more. Last season, the line played about 95 percent of the snaps. Whitehair, Leno and Bobby Massie played nearly all the snaps and Long, of course, missed time due to injury. T

hings are different this season so if the starters get more rest they’ll play better. They need to because the schedule gets much tougher after the bye.

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While Nagy can talk about other areas of the team needing to do better, it is critical for the offensive line to get back to what they did last season. The entire offense is struggling because of their poor play. Going forward, if it continues it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is or who the running back is, and the season could be in peril.