The Chicago Bears offensive line doesn’t have much star power. That, along with the departure of James Daniels in free agency, has many experts proclaiming the unit among the worst in the NFL. It isn’t hard to understand why. Only two spots out of five appear settled, with left tackle, right guard, and right tackle up for grabs. A 5th round rookie is a current favorite for left tackle, and the 2nd round pick from last year can’t even hold down the starting right tackle spot he played most of college at. It looks like a complete mess on paper. People fear for Justin Fields’ well-being.
Is it really that bad? Not if you trust what Luke Getsy has planned for the offense. He will bring a variation of the wide-zone offense to Chicago. This system was made famous by Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan, Gary Kubiak, Sean McVay, and Matt Lafleur. At its best, the scheme has confounded defenses for decades. I was curious if it had a tangible impact on pass protection during its first year. After doing some research, the results were somewhat surprising. While there were a few instances where no immediate effect was noticed, most others saw a massive improvement in sacks allowed.
- 1995 Broncos – From 55 to 26
- 2006 Texans – From 68 to 43
- 2010 Redskins – From 46 to 46
- 2015 Falcons – From 31 to 32
- 2017 49ers – From 46 to 43
- 2017 Rams – From 49 to 28
- 2019 Packers – From 53 to 36
Justin Fields can trust in help from the system.
Its success at improving protection comes with better coaching. Attention to detail is pivotal. That is why the Bears hired Chris Morgan. He has years of NFL experience and had success with this offense in Atlanta. He knows what is required to teach it. Don’t think those teams accomplished their improvement through simply running the ball more, either. Three of the five teams listed above finished 16th or worse in rushing attempts for that season. Only the Rams (9th) and Packers (13th) cleared that bar.
Chicago will run the football. That is what Getsy and Matt Eberflus want. However, they aren’t going to lean on that as a way to improve Justin Fields’ protection. Not like Matt Nagy did. They are determined to teach this group of young guys how to play their positions correctly. They want confident blockers that play with intelligence and violence. If this is accomplished, talent often shines through.
Fields may not play like a star this year, but his protection should end up better than it was last season.