Know Your Bears — The Offensive Tackles

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Bears left tackle Charles Leno led the way as the Bears shut out Robert Mathis in Week 5 last season. On a contract year, Leno could be in for a big payday if he has a big year in 2017. Darron Cummings/AP)

Sixth in a position-by-position series of training-camp capsules on every player on the Bears’ 90-man roster. The Bears open training camp July 27 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.



Offensive tackle      Sixth year

6-4, 315                    Mississippi

Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2016.

Age: 28

NFL experience: 69 games (61 starts) in five seasons games.

Background: A fourth-round draft pick (112th overall) by the Cardinals in 2012, Massie started 16 games at right tackle as a rookie, but was beaten out by free agent Eric Winston in 2013 and played in just eight games. He regained his starting job in 2014 and 2015, when the Cardinals went 11-5 and 13-3 and reached the NFC Championship Game against the Panthers after the 2015 season. With first-round pick D.J. Humphries waiting in the wings, the Cardinals didn’t make a big effort to re-sign Massie, who signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Bears that allowed Kyle Long to return to guard.

Notable: Massie started 15 of 16 games with the Bears in 2016, improving after a slow start. He was penalized just three times all season, only once in the final 12 games (a false start in Week 17 vs. the Vikings).

The skinny: The Bears are hoping that Massie — who turns 28 on Aug. 1 — can pick up where he left off and solidify a recently shaky position. With career back-ups Tom Compton and Bradley Sowells behind him, a lot rides on Massie establishing himself as a rock-solid starter.




Offensive tackle     Fourth year

6-4, 315                   Boise State

Acquired: Seventh-round draft pick (246th overall) in 2014.

Age: 25

NFL experience: 38 games (30 starts) in three seasons.

Background: After serving an apprenticeship behind starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod as a rookie in 2014 (he started one game, as a tackle-eligible against the Packers), Leno took over Bushrod’s starting position in Week 4 of 2015 and has started 29 consecutive games in the past two seasons. On a team that has had notable injury and depth issues, Leno has been on the field for the Bears’ last 1,899 offensive snaps in his 29 consecutive starts.

Notable: While his consistency and dependability is admirable, Leno generally ranks below average among NFL tackles. For what it’s worth, he ranked 44th among NFL starting tackles by Pro Football Focus last season.

The skinny: The Bears insist they are happy with Leno’s progress, which basically means they had bigger issues to address in the offseason and they did. Leno’s motivation should be at a peak — he will be a free agent after this season, so a big year could be a bonanza. But until he proves he deserves that, left tackle will be a huge x-factor for the Bears.




Offensive tackle      Sixth year

6-5, 308                   South Dakota

Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2017.

Age: 28

NFL experience: 44 games (11 starts) in five seasons.

Background: A sixth-round draft pick (193rd overall) by the Redskins in 2012, Compton spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad and had 10 offensive snaps in his second season. He started nine games in 2014 and two in 2015 without any acclaim, making his biggest impact as a blocking tight end. He signed with the Falcons as a reserve swing tackle, but played sparingly (69 offensive snaps) as the Falcons entire line started all 20 games.

Notable: Compton was an unfortunate footnote to one of the biggest collapses in NFL history. He replaced injured starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI and played the final 10 offensive snaps of the Falcons’ 34-28 overtime loss.

The skinny: A good athlete who has lined up as a fullback and extra tight end and should be a good fit for the Bears’ zone-blocking scheme. But like many unproven NFL back-ups, the “depth” that Compton provides remains to be seen. Still, he’s the leading candidate for back-up swing tackle entering training camp.




Offensive tackle      Sixth year

6-7, 316                    Mississippi

Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2017.

Age: 28

NFL experience: 68 games (21 starts) in five seasons.

Background: Signed by the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2012, Sowell made the practice squad before the Colts signed him to their active roster. He played 10 games as a rookie. Sowell was cut in 2013, but signed by the Cardinals and started the last 12 games in place of Levi Brown. He lost his starting position in 2014 and 2015 and was signed by the Seahawks in 2016. Sowell started six games at left tackle before suffering an injury and his replacement, Tom Fant, kept the job. Sowell started three games at right tackle when he returned, but was benched in Week 15 and inactive for the final two games and postseason. The Bears signed Sowell as a free agent in May.

Notable: The Cardinals were 8-4 in Sowell’s 12 starts in 2013. The Seahawks were 6-2-1 in Sowell’s nine starts last season.

The skinny: Almost by default, Sowell will be a candidate for the back-up swing tackle position. He at least has starting experience on good teams — but not necessarily good offensive lines.




Offensive tackle       Rookie

6-6, 293                     Florida International

Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017.

Age: 23

NFL experience: None.

Background: First name is pronounced “Jeh-GO.” Two-star defensive end recruit from Orlando, Fla. who switched to the offensive line the spring before his redshirt freshman season. Three year starter at left tackle — though only four starts as a junior because of an injury — who was honorable mention all-Conference USA last year, when the Panthers rushed for 200 yards or more five times.  Played in the East-West Shrine Game.

Notable: Joseph was convinced to switch from offensive line to defensive line by then head coach Ron Turner, who was the Bears’ offensive coordinator when James “Big Cat” Williams made a similar position change and ended up starting for nine seasons and making the Pro Bowl.

The skinny: With his long arms, big hands and “zone-blocking athleticism,” Joseph is an intriguing roll of the dice who likely is fighting for a chance to get a developmental year on the practice squad. Could surprise, with good teaching and opportunity.




Offensive tackle     Fourth year

6-8, 334                   Montana

Acquired: Signed to the practice squad in 2016.

Age: 25

NFL experience: None.

Background: Signed by the Titans as an undrafted free agent, the massive Poehls spent two seasons on the practice squad. After he was cut again by the Titans in 2016, the Bills signed Poehls to their practice squad, but he was cut six weeks later. The Bears signed him to their practice squad on Nov. 2, 2016 and signed Poehls to a futures contract in January.

Notable: Poehls’ last name is pronounced “Pails.” He played guard at Montana and was a second-team all-conference pick in 2013.

The skinny: At his size, he has good versatility, working at both guard and tackle on NFL teams. Already cut four times in the NFL, Poehls is the long shot of long shots and faces a steep climb just to get an opportunity to get an opportunity.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash



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