LAKE FOREST – While all the talk has been on the quarterbacks during training camp, and rightfully so, there always is an eye on the players who will be blocking for those signal callers this fall.
It’s no secret the that Bears’ offensive line had a difficult year in 2020 due to a host of injuries that forced numerous changes along with inconsistent play. It led to the team saying goodbye to a pair of starting tackles in Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr. while also using two of their top three draft selections on the line.
As training camp continues, the goal has been for the Bears to find their replacements on the outside while solidifying their middle core of guards Cody Whitehair and James Daniels along with center Sam Mustipher.
Veterans Elijah Wilkinson along with recently signed nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters will figure into the mix along with Lachavious Simmons. He along with Wilkinson had the start for the Bears in their preseason opener against the Dolphins, doing so as second round pick Teven Jenkins remains sidelines with a back injury.
Two more preseason games along with a host of training camp practices remain before the Bears opener their season at SoFi Stadium against the Rams on September 12th. Changes to the line could happen to the outside of the line or even the inside in that time, as veterans like Whitehair found out in 2020.
The key for the guard is to use this time to familiarize themselves with each other, allowing the line to be able to change on the fly if necessary.
“Injuries are going to happen, we all know that. It’s part of the game. You just have to be ready for that next guy to step in,” said Whitehair. “That’s why during training camp we get reps with everyone, so I think that helps, because we know how hard that is during the season when injuries happen and stuff like that.
“Whether that be in team or individual, just getting reps and continue to build that continuity no matter whether your second group or third group, we’re all working for that same goal, and we all work together in some way.”
For Mustipher, who started seven games in his rookie year of 2020, building that chemistry among the line includes also creating a uniform style of play for the group as well.
“We’ve got to have a standard of play that we have set for us,” said Mustipher. “Are we covering to the football? Are we picking the backs up? So no matter who goes in there, it’s just a ‘Next man up’ mentality,” said Mustipher. “There should be no dropoff in play. Building that standard comes with reps, and that comes over time because that’s not something that just happens in one day. You’ve got to build the conditioning, you’ve got to build the mental fortitude to understand the two-minute situation. What are your assignments? What are your blocking calls?
“We all need to all be seeing things through one set of eyes, and If we can do that, not matter who’s on the field, that cohesiveness as a unit, that builds, and that’s critical for an offensive line, it’s critical for our offense to succeed.”
That time to create that identity is now as the line hopes to find that consistency that escaped them a season ago.