Welcome to the sixth of our 12-part series as we get you ready for Bears Training Camp 2022 by looking at each position group on the depth chart, special teams and the new coaching staff.
We’ll bring you brief scouting reports with pluses and minuses for every notable player, how each group stacks up against the rest of the NFL, projected potential surprises and disappointments, the final 53-man roster and likely practice squad keepers.
Part 6 – Interior offensive line
This group is much more settled, although probably includes lower ceilings, than the tackles.
That said, the starting right guard spot still is up for grabs, and it remains a mystery what Lucas Patrick has done to be gifted Sam Mustipher’s starting center spot without a fight.
Whitehair is the one sure thing in this group with a Pro Bowl season at center under his belt and better-than-solid campaigns at left guard the past two seasons.
[ Top 25 most important Bears in 2022: No. 21 Cody Whitehair ]
More importantly, he’s the strong-but-silent type and disdains the spotlight, but every lineman in the locker room looks up to him and will follow wherever he leads.
Biggest plus: Can play anywhere on the line, and he’s built for offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s outside zone-read run game.
Biggest concern: None, really. Whitehair is the first offensive player about whom I can say that.
Patrick is an undrafted rookie free agent from the Green Bay Packers who needed four seasons to become a starter at guard in 2020. He then started the 2021 opener at left guard but lost the job to Jon Runyan Jr. in Week 2.
[ Top 25 most important Bears in 2022: No. 10 Lucas Patrick ]
He had two emergency starts at center at the end of the 2019 season when Corey Linsley went down and took over at center in Week 7 last year after Josh Meyers was injured in Week 6 against the Bears. Patrick went on to finish the season at center.
Biggest plus: He was solid if unspectacular last season in relief of Meyers.
Biggest concern: Patrick is a career backup the Packers chose not to re-sign after last year’s performance.
Mustipher lacks natural size and great athleticism but is a good technician and excellent student of the game who took over the starting center spot about a third of the way into the 2020 season and started 24 of the past 26 games there.
[ Top 25 most important Bears in 2022: No. 24 Sam Mustipher ]
He basically has been average but does appear to lack the nastiness of Patrick, although he still may be the better player.
Biggest plus: A workaholic who does a great job recognizing defenses and making line calls.
Biggest concern: Lack of natural traits gives him a fairly low ceiling.
Thomas is an interesting prospect who was the seventh pick in the sixth round of this year’s draft by the Bears after he played everywhere but center at San Diego State. He may be the best fit and best hope for the starting right guard spot if Larry Borom stays at tackle and Teven Jenkins doesn’t get a shot at it.
Biggest plus: Great size, the nasty streak general manager Ryan Poles seeks and a really good fit at guard in Getsy’s scheme.
Biggest concern: Predicting NFL careers for sixth-round draft choices.
A tackle in college, Carter has the body type and athleticism to make him an interesting developmental prospect at guard.
Biggest plus: He’s a mauler in the run game and should spend the season on the practice squad adjusting to the move from Southern University to the NFL.
Biggest concern: Position change, big step up in class, who knows?
Willie Wright, Doug Kramer, Dieter Eiselen
Wright and Eiselen are basically practice squad warriors still looking for the missing link. Kramer is a local kid out of Hinsdale you have to pull for but, honestly, a player the Bears apparently like more than most of the scouts I’ve talked to and is basically a poor man’s Mustipher.
Where they fit in NFL: This group is neither the best nor the worst in the bottom half of the league with a stud in Whitehair but otherwise a whole lot of ifs.
Potential: If Poles knows something about Patrick almost no one else does and Thomas emerges as the rookie you can’t keep off the field as some think he is, they could be fairly good. They do all fit Getsy’s new scheme.
Surprises: Either Borom or Jenkins ends up at right guard and suddenly the whole interior looks a lot stronger.
Disappointments: Both center and right guard could end up being weak spots all season long.
Outcome: Whitehair, Patrick and Thomas appear to be sure things, and Mustipher should be, but it appears Poles isn’t a fan. Carter looks like a lock for the practice squad, and the rest is a crapshoot.