What a difference a week and a half can make.
While it would be hard to predict this Bears offensive line will ever constitute a strength of the team, it’s also hard to argue the interior at left guard, center and right guard isn’t much improved and deeper.
Add in the return of Germain Ifedi from the PUP list and the signing of Jason Peters, suddenly the tackle position gets a lot more intriguing.
Head coach Matt Nagy talked Wednesday about some renewed confidence seeing them all on the field.
“It was good yesterday getting them out there,” Nagy said. “They have an amazing relationship with each other. And J Peters coming in here, it’s really neat seeing how they gravitate toward him. And he’s a real professional back there, helping them out. It’s a really good unit.
“They’re in it together. Communication’s awesome. Now physically we’ve just got to get them right, those tackles, get them going, get them into their deal.”
It’s easy to trust the guys inside with Cody Whitehair, James Daniels and Sam Mustipher all being quality starters. Whitehair and Daniels, with Pro Bowl ceilings, and Alex Bars has started at guard and center. Bars may be the team’s best backup tackle on the left or right side as well.
Tackle, of course, is a different story, but not because the Bears didn’t finally prioritize the position this offseason.
Bobby Massie wasn’t healthy enough, and Charles Leno and Jason Spriggs weren’t good enough, so the club cut bait and re-signed Ifedi, added free agent Elijah Wilkinson, used its second and third draft picks on Teen Jenkins and Larry Borom, and then recently added Peters.
But until last Thursday only Wilkinson, Whitehair and Mustipher were on the field.
Ifedi was brought here to be a guard but out of necessity was forced out to right tackle following the bye season. The line and running game did perform much better during the last six weeks of the season.
One thing that will have to improve is false starts, which have been a problem for the Bears. Ifedi lead the league in them in his time at tackle in Seattle.
Wilkinson is still listed as the starting left tackle, but it’s plain to see he’s not an upgrade over Leno and may not be a lock to even make the team.
Jenkins, of course, will now be out at least until midseason recovering from back surgery, but Borom has been a pleasant surprise, demanding more and more reps at left tackle even though he was targeted for the right side or maybe even guard when drafted.
But if there is to be a big improvement it will likely come from Peters at left tackle.
Ifedi can’t say enough about what Peters has brought to the locker room already.
“Being with Jason, it’s like, dang, you know, that experience is invaluable,” Ifedi said. “It’s not even all about football stuff, it’s life stuff too. Relationships, things like that, financial stuff. He talks to us about anything. He’s been in it so long, seen everything.
“Those types of guys, they just love sharing and putting their arms around the younger guys and really telling them the way, because you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Peters also brings something else none of the youngsters can, he can set goals that would sound silly coming from them.
“I just want to win, get another ring, to be honest,” Peters said. “I got one, I would like another here with the Chicago Bears.”
Can this offensive line get there?
That still feels a bit far-fetched, but if Ifedi can get the snap count down, and Peters can turn back the clock just a few years, maybe it’s not nearly as silly as it would have sounded last week.