Throughout the summer we will be running a 12-part series grading each Bears position group on a standard A-F scale, including pluses and minuses based on a bell curve comparing all 32 NFL teams.
All of our position group analyses have to assume reasonably good health, what potential answers/players are available along with the ceilings and floors on those potential answers.
We at least have that information on almost all of the quarterbacks and cornerbacks on the roster.
It is quite possible the Bears could be improved, perhaps even very good at offensive tackle this year, but it also is true they may not have an NFL starting-caliber tackle on the team, and two of the three top hopes (Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom) never have played a down in the league.
That makes this the toughest group on the roster to evaluate and grade.
Ifedi is a great young man with the size and athletic ability to stand out at right tackle. He played well, if not spectacularly, when he was forced out to right tackle last season.
“Works as hard as any guy I’ve been around,” offensive line coach Juan Castillo recently said. “I don’t want to make predictions, but I would not be surprised if this kid made the Pro Bowl next year.”
The problem is Ifedi was drafted in the first round by Seattle to play guard but was forced to spend most of his time at tackle because of injuries at the position. He played so poorly Seattle didn’t even try to re-sign him at the expiration of his rookie deal.
When the Bears signed Ifedi, we were told he’s really a guard, and he played fairly well there, but he now is the hope again at tackle. His history says we should be concerned. Grade: B-
It seems almost certain Jenkins is your Week 1 starter at left tackle. You have to love this kid as a prospect, but he definitely needs development. Although his coaches say he can play either side, many analysts have pegged him as a much better prospect at, if not strictly, right tackle. But until we see him play ... Grade: Incomplete
Originally signed as a 2017 undrafted rookie free agent out of Massachusetts by the Denver Broncos, Wilkinson made the team and even started 26 games over the 2018, ’19 and ’20 seasons. But all his starts were at right tackle or right guard. He’s a big guy at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds and built for the right side, but he’s unlikely to beat out Ifedi. If he’s your third tackle, you don’t have a swing tackle/backup on the left behind the rookie. Grade: C
Love this kid as a prospect and expect he eventually will become the starting right tackle. He’s done a great job working on his body since leaving Missouri, and although he was rated as strictly a right tackle, he looked athletic enough over the summer after significant weight loss and weight room work that he actually could be the second-best option for the left side on the roster right now. Grade: Incomplete
A seventh-round pick last year who made the team but never saw the field, he’s built like a left tackle and may have the athletic ability to play it, but until he gets on the field ... Grade: Incomplete
BADARA TRAORE, DAREUAN PARKER
Here are two more undrafted rookie free agents: Traore last year and now with a year on the practice squad, and Parker this year. Both are massive and primarily right tackle candidates. Grade: Incomplete
General manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy are making a huge bet and taking a big risk with this group. The upside is real, but the downside is even more obvious.
The Bears almost certainly will keep Ifedi, Wilkinson and the two rookies. Alex Bars can be tried outside, too.
If Castillo is right and Ifedi finally is ready to bloom and not lead the league’s offensive linemen in penalties again, and Jenkins is better prepared than most draft analysts predicted, this could be the Bears’ best offensive line since 2006. But if Ifedi just isn’t an NFL tackle and Jenkins makes all the rookie mistakes we’d normally expect, this could be a disaster. As these guys go, so might the offense. Overall grade: C