LAKE FOREST – For a unit that’s already had it’s share of struggles during 2020 season, this week has been especially difficult for the Bears’ offensive line.
James Daniels’ torn pectoral muscle knocked him out for the year earlier this season. Starting tackle Bobby Massie has been placed on injured reserve, with his backup Jason Spriggs now out after a positive COVID-19 test. Cody Whitehair also has the virus, but a calf injury suffered against the Rams had already knocked him out for at least two games.
Backup center Sam Mustipher, who filled in for Whitehair, won’t play Sunday against the Titans due to a shoulder injury. At the moment, the Bears don’t have a true center that is on their active roster, forcing the team to have someone else take the snaps.
All are not good things for Matt Nagy as his offense continues to limp their way through the 2020 season. The rushing attack is second-to-last in the league (85.6 yards per game) while the offense is 28th in the NFL with 20.1 points per game.
Charles Leno Jr. (Tackle) and Germain Ifedi are the only starters left, and it will be a patchwork to fill the other positions. Alex Bars, who normally plays guard, could be the one taking snaps at center, but that won’t be decided till game time.
Seventh-round draft picks Lachavious Simmons, who is second on the depth chart at right tackle, and Arlington Hambright, who is third on the depth chart at guard, and could find their way into the lineup. Fellow rookies Dieter Eiselen (Yale) and Badara Traore (LSU) have been called up from the practice squad as well.
How it will all shake out by the Noon kickoff against the Titans in Nashville is still to be seen. It certainly has made things difficult for Nagy, who lost a day of practice after Halas Hall was closed due to positive COVID-19 tests on the team.
“We have some guys on this team that you’ll see as we go here in regards to who can play center and how that goes,” said Nagy. “It’s our job to make sure that we get guys prepared. That’s where we’re at right now. We’ll do everything we can to make sure they can play fast.
“Simplify things and allowing them to play fast is something that we’ll do. If there’s something that’s in there that’s too much, then we can’t do that. that’s where it’s the question and answer for us with the players.”
At least they have Ifedi in the lineup, which didn’t look like a possibility for a lot of the week. He was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list since he was deemed in close contact with Spriggs and Whitehair.
The guard cleared protocol and was able to return to practice Friday, getting a chance to work with the patchwork line around him.
“You’ve got to look to yourself first,” said Ifedi when asked about how he adjusts to so many new lineman around him. “I’ve got to lean on my experience and I’ve got to be able to help the group though. Whoever we roll out there with, I have to lean on them and they have to lean on me.”
Who that will be is still very much to be determined.
See more on the Bears tonight on Chicago Football Weekly with Jarrett Payton and Lauren Magiera at 6 PM on WGN-TV.