The Chicago Bears claimed Alex Leatherwood off waivers on August 31st from the Las Vegas Raiders. It was a surprise to many that a team would willingly pick up the former 1st round pick’s contract. GM Ryan Poles explained that Leatherwood’s talent was too good to pass on. He’s 23 years old. While his rookie season didn’t go well in 2021, that is no reason to think the former Alabama product can’t develop into a good player given some time and a new, stable environment.
Things started with some bad luck. Leatherwood contracted mononucleosis shortly after arriving in Chicago, shutting him down for several weeks. The illness saw him lose 25 lbs and upset his conditioning level. It took time to get back into shape after he recovered. That is why he never saw the field through the first three months of the season. However, his time finally arrived on December 4th against the Green Bay Packers. Bears coaches rotated him in for 10 snaps, his first action in almost a full year.
Tape analyst The Football Scout on YouTube broke down the film. He was impressed by how much Leatherwood’s technique had improved from his rookie year. That was his biggest weakness. It seems the Bears have begun to correct it.
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Alex Leatherwood is a huge focal point down the stretch.
When listing the Bears’ biggest needs going into the 2023 off-season, right tackle is near the top of the list. Larry Borom isn’t a long-term starter. Riley Reiff turns 35 years old. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they either spend significant money in free agency or a high draft pick on the position next spring. The one person that might change that is Leatherwood. He should get more playing time over the final four games. The stretch will feature four good defensive fronts in Philadelphia, Buffalo, Detroit, and Minnesota. It should give the team excellent evaluation opportunities for the young tackle.
If Alex Leatherwood performs well, the coaches might be willing to enter the 2023 season with him as their starting right tackle. It would make life much easier for Poles as he looks to reconstruct the offensive line around Justin Fields. Experts have said for months that Leatherwood was one or two years away before he started to realize his potential as a blocker. His talent was never the issue. It appears Chicago has him pointed in the right direction. Let’s see if he can finish strong.