There are plenty of contributors to the Chicago Bears mini-revival over the past two weeks. Especially on the offensive side. Mitch Trubisky is regaining some of his 2018 form. David Montgomery is rampaging on the ground. Darnell Mooney continues evolving as a weapon in the passing game. Yet by far, the biggest surprise of the 2020 season has to be Sam Mustipher.
Think about this. The kid was an undrafted free agent in 2019. Many didn’t pay much attention to him, too enamored with his more widely celebrated teammate Alex Bars whom the Bears also signed. After failing to crack the roster for the second-straight offseason, it looked like Mustipher would wallow on the practice squad once again.
That is until fate intervened.
First left guard James Daniels went down with a pectoral injury. With him being the backup center to Cody Whitehair, this necessitated the Bears elevating Mustipher to the main roster. Then just weeks later, Whitehair himself went down with a calf injury. Just like that the undersized kid from Maryland took over in the middle for an ailing offensive line.
Fast forward a month and the transformation has been nothing short of astounding. The Bears have suddenly become one of the best rushing offenses in the league, averaging 140 yards per game. Tons of the credit has gone to Mustipher whose calm, toughness, and razor-sharp intelligence has helped get the blocking sorted out.
The best part though is the impact he’s had in the Bears locker room. According to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, the kid is already a major favorite of teammates.
“One of the greatest compliments I can give Sam is that when his name is brought up in front of the group — how do I put it? — the reaction of the team, offensive and defensive players, the cheer that came up almost took me back,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “What it did was it showed you, I can’t remember what (Nagy) mentioned him for, something in front of the team, but the reaction of the team showed me what the team thinks of him.”
Sam Mustipher doesn’t look like just a flash in the pan
Something that is often overlooked about centers in the NFL? It isn’t always the most athletic, the biggest, or the strongest who succeed. It is those who are the smartest and make the fewest mistakes. Look around the league. Of the 32 primary starters at center, most of them were either drafted on Day 3 (4th to 7th rounds) or went undrafted. So what is happening with Mustipher is hardly uncommon.
If any team should know this it’s the Bears. Arguably the greatest center in their history, seven-time Pro Bowler Jay Hilgenberg was an undrafted free agent. Like Mustipher, he was unheralded but came from a program known for producing quality blockers in Iowa. Yet because of his average size (6’3, 260 lbs), teams didn’t think he could cut it in the NFL.
Then he went on to help the Bears win a championship.
There is no reason to think what Sam Mustipher has done to this point is a mirage. He’s not playing scare. He is playing like he belongs. Nobody can argue the rapid improvement of the Bears offensive line since he took over. There is no evidence to suggest he’s getting by with help from others. If anything, others have started playing better because of him.
With another year left on his contract, the Bears have every reason to give the guy more time to show he’s the real deal.