Competition sounds good, but Bears offensive line duels coming down to just two

Competition sounds good, but Bears offensive line duels coming down to just two

The mantra of the Bears’ 2016 offseason – “COMPETITION” – will not begin in earnest until coaches and players come together for organized team activities starting at the end of this month, and it will continue until…well, it won’t completely stop until sometime in early January.

But while competitions will be ongoing at virtually every position save a handful, certain positions have clear early leaders, with interesting implications.

Nowhere more so than on the offensive line that will be the foundation of an emphasized run game and the protection of the organization’s franchise quarterback.

The stated philosophy at all levels from GM Ryan Pace on down is that the five best linemen regardless of position will be the No. 1s. But the reality is that three of those “best five” appear effectively set.

Subject to unforeseen developments, consider:

Right guard: Kyle Long

Neither Pace nor coach John Fox would commit to Kyle Long’s job description but “Kyle is our right guard,” Magazu said. “We were kind of unfair to Kyle springing it on him as late as we did. I think he needs to settle in mentally.”

Right tackle: Bobby Massie

Signing Bobby Massie was a priority for a reason. “[He’s a] big, long, physical guy,” Magazu said. “He’s not going to be easy to bull-rush. I’m excited about where Bobby is. We’re going to look good on the right side.”

Left tackle: Charles Leno Jr.

Leno, like center Hroniss Grasu, has added weight and strength in the weight room. Leno slid into the job because of injuries to Jermon Bushrod but then made it his own based on performance.

And he simply fits better at left tackle than right, something that apparently took time to figure out, with Leno starting two of the first three games at right tackle and the fourth at right. “As a tackle you’ve got to be really good with your inside hand,” Magazu said. “He’s a little bit better with his right hand than he is with his left. ... I think that revolves around being more dominant with his right hand than his left.”

What all of that really boils down to the fact that the real competitions will effectively be waged at two spots – center and left guard –  contested by four primary principals – Grasu, Ted Larsen, Manny Ramirez, rookie Cody Whitehair.

Given that Long was voted to the Pro Bowl at guard as a rookie, Massie was a 16-game starter as a rookie, and Larsen started 11 games as a rookie, No. 2 pick Whitehair will be very much in the chase for a starting position. He in fact worked at center at times during the rookie minicamp.

“You put on the tape and [Whitehair] just a consistent, good football player,” Magazu said. “He can move, he fits, he understands leverage in football.”

The “best five” actually involves three distinctly different positions – center, guard, tackle – but “all the techniques are so close to being the same, that if you can execute it on a 3-technique, you can execute it on a ‘shade,’” Magazu said. “All the techniques are tied in and each better know what the other is doing.

“I really think it’s going to just play out. We’ve got four preseason games and then our opener Sept. 11. They’ll be the ones to decide which the best five are.

“We’re going to put on the tape; Ryan Pace is going to look at it, coach Fox is going to look at it, Dowell [Loggains, offensive coordinator] going to look at it. They’re going to know, they pick who the starting five is going to be."

Bears logo ranked in bottom five of NFL in recent fan poll

USA Today

Bears logo ranked in bottom five of NFL in recent fan poll

The Chicago Bears logo has withstood the test of time. In a sports era full of uniform changes, the Bears have maintained the classic orange 'C' for most of their nearly 100 years in Chicago.

Unfortunately, tradition doesn't equate to popularity.

Chicago's logo ranked 28th in the NFL, according to a recent poll of nearly 1,500 football fans. Only the Redskins (29), Bengals (30), Jets (31) and Browns (32) were worse.

I’m not sure how I feel about the underbite on the “C.” I can see how this would be a polarizing feature of this logo. I wish to an extent that it met up more evenly. I think they could have had the bottom meet up in a more even fashion and still maintained the sharpness, of the “C,” which I like. I don’t mind the point [ON THE BACK SIDE OF THE “C”], without the point it would be super boring. The point actually does add something from a design standpoint that makes it stand out.

Bears fans will take exception with the results. Wins have been hard to come by in recent seasons, but there's still something special about seeing the familiar navy and orange on Sundays in the fall. The 'C' is arguably the biggest part of that. Sure, it's not a complex design overflowing with colors, but it represents a long and storied history. 

It's interesting that each of the bottom five teams have struggled to string together winning seasons. On the flipside, teams like the Saints, Falcons, Rams, Vikings and Eagles rank in the top six. Maybe it's recency bias.

In the NFC North, the Lions rank No. 2 (which is a shocker) and the Packers are No. 20. 

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start from new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."