Any assessment of the Bears’ offensive line 2017 performance should be prefaced with a simple fact: this was a unit with arguably the hardest job of any Bears position group. Consistently, the Bears faced eight or nine-man boxes against the run and were forced to pass protect on way too many third and longs.
It also didn’t help that for much of the season, they protected an inexperienced rookie quarterback who didn’t read blitzes and change protection as well as he should have (and for the first four weeks they protected a quarterback with the athletic ability and coincidental neck length of a giraffe).
With that being said, after watching every sack the Bears allowed this season and way too much footage of the Bears’ run game, listed below are the final grades for every significant contributor to the Chicago Bears’ offensive line in 2017.
LT Charles Leno Jr.
Leno’s preseason four-year $38 million dollar contract extension was deservedly met with skepticism. However, he performed well enough to justify receiving it. He wasn’t a star, by any standards, but starting caliber left tackles are nearly as hard to come by as quarterbacks.
Leno was relatively shaky in pass protection, like in Week 5 when Everson Griffin blew by him for an easy strip sack, and he led the team in penalties with 13. He shored it up for the most part by the end of the season, though. His run blocking is one of the more underrated parts of the Bears’ offense. Leno was slightly above average this season, but in Matt Nagy’s west coast scheme, he has potential to thrive.
LG Josh Sitton
Sitton was solid this season, as he has been for the vast majority of his excellent career. What’s concerning is not what he did on the field but how often he was on it. Sitton dealt with nagging injuries, culminating in missing the final two games and three total on the season.
You have to wonder if he’s a candidate to be cut, given his rich contract for a guard. There were a few reports that the Bears were shopping him at the trade deadline, which may be a sign of things to come. Overall, a good performance this season, but questions lie ahead.
C/G Cody Whitehair
After an excellent rookie year leaving the Bears thinking they had their first stud center since Olin Kreutz, Whitehair had serious issues snapping the ball in the beginning of the season. When snaps are going over 6’6″ Mike Glennon‘s head, there is a problem (speaking of which, I have learned that giraffes can run 37 miles per hour, making it unfair to compare them to Mike Glennon. My apologies, giraffes).
Whitehair blocked well, for the most part, this season, showing potential to be a Pro Bowl Lineman. The coaches didn’t help him by constantly changing his position from center to guard. His versatility is an asset, but a young, developing player should find a position and stick with it.
Snapping Grade: D-
Blocking Grade: B+
RG Kyle Long
At no point in this season was Kyle Long ever healthy. He wasn’t the same blocker we’ve come to expect over his years in Chicago, but coming back from major ankle surgery and a torn labrum in one offseason is extremely difficult. It’ll be an offseason of surgeries and recovery for Long, who will look to get back to full strength in 2018.
RT Bobby Massie
The area that general manager Ryan Pace needs to get much better at is free agency, and Massie is a good example of that. I counted seven sacks that were primarily on him out of the 39 that the Bears allowed this season. He was also not good enough as a run blocker to make up for it.
He was consistently beaten off the edge by speed rushers and didn’t position himself well enough to account for inside moves either. His contract is not an albatross and could be worth bringing back as a reserve lineman but as a starting right tackle, he is extremely replaceable.
Signed to a one year deal, Tom Compton was a perfectly fine backup guard in 2017. He had to participate in more games than the Bears would like (11 games, five starts) but he did his job well. It’s worth resigning him to another one-year deal.
Grasu is a bust. He had three years to gain NFL-caliber strength and did not do it. Defensive tackles bullied him all season long, and his presence was a big reason why the run game failed to contribute whatsoever in the last three games. Not worth a roster spot in the least next year.