For all the concern about the lack of faith in Mitch Trubisky, talent at tight end and depth at running back, many believe the biggest issue facing the Chicago Bears last season was the offensive line and that major renovations were in order.
But in spite of the retirement of former Pro Bowler Kyle Long, the Bears’ only meaningful offseason O-line additions were a pair of veteran free agents, Germain Ifedi and Jason Spriggs on near veteran minimum one-year, prove-it deals.
Yes, Lachavious Simmons and Arlington Hambright are tackles drafted in the seventh round, but for now, best case for both is the practice squad.
Still Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy and new offensive line coach and run game coordinator, Juan Castillo see things quite differently.
For starters Nagy has spent a chunk of the offseason positioning Castillo as one of the game's great coaches, and their argument would be if the club had invested first- and second-round draft picks in a tackle and a guard this offseason Bears nation might be turning cartwheels.
According to Castillo that’s pretty much what the club did.
“I think that the thing about Germain is that you know he's played four years, he started at guard his first year and then he's started at tackle so he has a lot of game time experience and that's very important," Castillo said.
“You know when you saw him on tape you saw that he played for a physical team. Seattle was a physical team and he's one of the guys that was physical, I mean he was a starter at guard and at tackle.
Ifedi was Seattle’s first-round pick four years ago and though a natural guard, he spent most of his time at tackle in Seattle.
Castillo thinks Coward may be ready to make an impact as well.
“I'm really excited about him because he's an athlete, because he's tough and physical, and because he finishes," Castillo said.
“Between him and Germain, Germain is 335 and Rashaad is 320 pounds, and they're both athletic, they're both physical. I’m excited what that right guard position's gonna be like.”
Castillo also thinks it’s a mistake to write off Spriggs.
As the Bears were about to be on the clock at No. 49 in the 2016 draft, there were reports everywhere Spriggs would be their guy, but the Packers traded up to 48 to snatch him and the Bears then traded down to 56 and took Cody Whitehair.
Spriggs was a bust in Green Bay, and due to the success of David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga in front of him, it’s hard to suggest coaching was the issue.
But Castillo says, “You can say what does a second-round draft pick mean?
“What that means is he's got some God-given ability. It's my job to get him to be productive, to get him to play fundamentally sound.
“My job is to get Jason to be a starter, meaning that he's going to be consistent just like Bobby (Massie) and Charles (Leno) is.
Improvement from Leno at left tackle or someone to take his job seems a must, and Castillo seems to think Spriggs could be the answer.
It is also worth noting that when I tried to get Castillo to confirm that as Nagy has hinted, Whitehair was staying at center and James Daniels at guard, he wouldn’t take the bait.
“I would say this, first of all, either young man can play center and either young man can play guard," Castillo said. “I think they're both very talented. I think that Cody had already lined up at center before, and I think they both are going to have to play center.
“I like James' length at the guard position, I like Cody's leadership at the center position.”
At the end of the day the glass half empty crowd sees a mediocre group that has struggled the last two seasons.
But the glass half full folks that clearly includes Bears management will see a change in philosophy from a veteran coach, five returning starters and new first- and second-round picks to compete.
It is a grand experiment that will be one of the most interesting and important storylines of this season, certain to command out attention all year long.