Leading up to Bears training camp in late July, Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2021 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
Justin Fields might not be the best player on the Bears in 2021 (or maybe he will be), but he certainly is among the most important.
No. 20: Germain Ifedi
Position: Offensive tackle
NFL experience: Sixth season
Looking back: The Bears took a flier on offensive lineman Germain Ifedi in March 2020. Ifedi had struggled at right tackle for the Seattle Seahawks after being selected with a first-round draft pick in 2016. The Bears gave him a one-year “prove it” deal, sticking him into the starting lineup at right guard. Ifedi proved it, indeed. He started all 16 games, playing at right guard for the first 10 contests.
When right tackle Bobby Massie suffered a knee injury midway through the season, the Bears inserted Ifedi into the right tackle position. Over the final six weeks of the season, the Bears played their best football with Ifedi at right tackle. The Bears saw enough from Ifedi that they felt comfortable offering him another one-year contract.
Looking forward: In a spring interview, offensive line coach Juan Castillo – never one to undersell his players – came out and declared that Ifedi has Pro Bowl potential this season. But Ifedi doesn’t need to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player for the offensive line to have success. He simply need not regress to his 2019 performance, when he was near the top of the NFL in penalties.
With rookie Teven Jenkins likely to start at left tackle, the Bears need someone solid and capable on the right side. Limited cap space dictated that the team couldn’t go out and spend big on a free agent. The two tackle positions might hold the Bears’ 2021 season in their hands (after the quarterback position).
“He’s got some God-given ability,” Castillo said. “And me as a coach, it’s my job to make that ability pay off.”