Bears’ offensive line scrambles again without LT Charles Leno
If a toe injury keeps Leno out against the Packers, the Bears will be down to two of their five original starters up front.
The Bears’ offensive line, the most beleaguered unit on the team, could be thrown into further turmoil with the loss of left tackle Charles Leno.
Leno missed practice Thursday with a toe injury suffered in practice the day before. If he is out Sunday against the Packers, the Bears would be down to two of their original five starters: center Cody Whitehair and right guard Germain Ifedi. Right tackle Bobby Massie and left guard James Daniels are on injured reserve.
That’s bad news for a team that ranks last in the NFL in rushing and has given up the 12th-most sacks.
Coach Matt Nagy was optimistic about Leno because he was able to finish practice Wednesday and said he was held out Thursday because he woke up “a little bit sore.”
The Bears’ next tackle is Jason Spriggs, who was with the Packers the last four seasons. The Bears could use him in Leno’s place and shift Ifedi to right tackle, where he played for the Seahawks.
That would leave Whitehair, Alex Bars, Rashaad Coward and Sam Mustipher for the three interior spots.
Mustipher started at center when Whitehair was out, and Whitehair played half of last season at left guard. Given how much Coward has struggled this season, Bars would be the logical choice at right guard.
That would be the Bears’ fifth different starting offensive line in six games, though it’s possible they would have changed the lineup anyway after reassessing the unit during the bye week.
Hoping for Hicks
The biggest injury concern for the Bears this week, even more so than quarterback, is the availability of defensive lineman Akiem Hicks.
Hicks has been out of practice since exiting the Vikings game with a hamstring injury, but the Bears have a reasonable hope he’ll be on the field Sunday night. Nagy hinted that the team might not get clarity until shortly before kickoff.
“He’s slowly getting better and better,” Nagy said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
Having Hicks, an elite run stopper and pass rusher, against a Packers offense that ranks third in the NFL at 30.8 points per game is essential for the Bears. After he went out against the Vikings, for example, they allowed 60 yards on 13 carries in the fourth quarter.
The Bears will decide between using wide receiver Anthony Miller and newly signed return specialist DeAndre Carter as their punt returner.
Miller took that role briefly when Tarik Cohen got hurt in Week 3 but fumbled a punt, then had two returns for a total of 44 yards against the Vikings when Dwayne Harris left with a season-ending triceps injury. If he has to do it again, he said he’d have no problem handling that task along with his duties on offense.
“Yeah, man, it’s football,” Miller said. “It’s catching punts.”
Carter, 27, averaged 9.3 yards per punt return for the Texans the last two seasons. They waived him Nov. 16, and the Bears claimed him.