Bears

Hub Arkush: Bears putting Justin Fields’ development in hands of untested offensive line

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields looks to hand off the football during practice, Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

LAKE FOREST – Offensive line coach Chris Morgan was asked 24 questions during his introductory press conference with Bears media Tuesday and answered 12 of them with some version of either ‘it’s just too soon to tell’ or ‘we really won’t have any idea until we get to training camp, exhibitions and actual contact.’

Does he think Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom can be bookend tackles to build around?

“Those guys, they’re getting better every day,” Morgan said. “That’s the biggest thing right now. We don’t have pads on. I keep coming back to that. As you guys know, it’s hard to evaluate offensive linemen in May.”

Is he confident the Bears can?

“Well, those two guys want to win,” Morgan said of Jenkins and Borom. “Those two guys are willing to do whatever. To this point, those two guys have done a really nice job. They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them and more.”

In other words, beyond Lucas Patrick at center and Cody Whitehair at left guard, the new offensive line coach has no idea what he has to work with yet.

Patrick was just as uncertain when asked Tuesday how long it might take just to figure out whom the best five are to start on the offensive line.

“I mean, I’d say nobody knows,” he said. “You don’t know, if you’re the most experienced line, if it’s gonna work out. Each day you’ve just gotta try and get as good as you can be.

“If you’re just trying to get better each day and putting the best five out there, whoever that is, and competing every day, then that unit will be solid if they’re doing that.”

That sounds and feels at least a bit like wishful thinking to me but I’ll give the guy that started at both center and guard for the NFC’s No. 1 seed in Green Bay in 2020 and 2021 the benefit of the doubt.

Patrick, however, is also symbolic of what currently haunts the majority of analysts and Bears fans alike.

Originally an undrafted rookie free agent by the Packers in 2017, Patrick started just six games his first three seasons in the league and then 15 and 13 in 2020 and 2021, respectively, and yet is being billed as the most important addition this year to the Bears’ long-beleaguered offensive line.

So what are the team, and, most notably, Justin Fields to do?

“Every day get better and compete and get tough,” Patrick said. “(I’m) so fired up that [general manager Ryan Poles] is a former offensive lineman because I think he gets it to the core – what it takes to build an offensive line.

“It’s tough, competition, smart, just guys who love football and just want to compete. I think it’s great. Bring 30 guys in. We can only have five, and it’s only going to push guys further.”

Morgan agreed with Patrick’s sentiments.

“I think it’s always a challenge to get five guys to play together. And up front that’s the only thing that matters,” Morgan said.

“You’re only as good as your weakest link, so to speak. And it really does take all five to excel on the offensive line. So getting those guys to play together, to play for each other, that’s probably … I don’t know if it’s the hardest thing, but it might be the No. 1 topic to address and try to accomplish.”

The major concern is how do you develop Fields if his offensive line isn’t better – or possibly even worse – than it was last year?

Neither Tom Brady nor Aaron Rodgers has ever played in front of a star-studded offensive line, just dependable ones.

Fields and his offense are going to struggle early this season, get used to that reality now.

But it isn’t unreasonable to hope this group might have enough to jell into serviceable by midseason if everything goes right, and give Fields a chance to make considerable strides before we get to January.

It’s certainly not ideal for the young quarterback, but it will show us fairly quickly how patient Poles is going to be with both his line and his quarterback, and it does not amount to the lack of commitment to Fields some are already accusing Poles of.

Can these guys get to dependable, that’s the $64,000 question.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.