You probably won’t recognize all 5 names on Bears’ projected starting offensive line
The beleaguered unit was the last one that could afford further problems. But Jason Spriggs’ positive test for the coronavirus and some new injuries have decimated the Bears’ O-line.
The Bears hit the field at Halas Hall for their first practice of the week with an unnerving sense of uncertainty.
They are in the NFL’s intensive protocol to prevent a coronavirus outbreak after offensive tackle Jason Spriggs tested positive and right guard Germain Ifedi was forced into quarantine because he was a high-risk close contact.
Coach Matt Nagy believes there hasn’t been any spread beyond Spriggs, but as with everything during the pandemic, he can’t be sure. And in another recurring theme, Nagy must adapt to the change in practice schedule and personnel.
“We feel pretty good in regards to everything right now with where we’re at,” Nagy said. “Everyone’s been really good with the [intensive protocol] and the way that you go about meetings, wearing the masks all the time.
“You’ve got to keep your fingers crossed. You never know. Every day is a new day, but we feel pretty good about it.”
Nagy didn’t say whether Spriggs is experiencing symptoms, but said, “He’s pretty good.” Ifedi can play Sunday at the Titans if he stays quarantined for five days — that would end Saturday — and continues to test negative, so Nagy anticipates him being available.
The offensive line is the last place the Bears could afford to sustain this kind of hit. They already lost left guard James Daniels to a season-ending pectoral injury. Right tackle Bobby Massie went on injured reserve with a knee injury this week and center Cody Whitehair missed the last game because of a calf injury.
Massie’s replacement was Spriggs. Whitehair’s replacement was Sam Mustipher, who missed practice Wednesday with a knee injury. Rashaad Coward was filling in for Daniels, but moved out to right tackle Sunday when Spriggs exited briefly with an injury.
Here’s how their starting five projects if Ifedi isn’t cleared to return against the Titans:
• Left tackle: Charles Leno, who has been up and down the last two seasons.
• Left guard: Alex Bars, a second-year undrafted player with 45 career offensive snaps.
• Center: Aaron Neary, whose only NFL game was three years ago and was out of the league altogether until the Bears signed him to their practice squad Tuesday.
• Right guard: Arlington Hambright, a seventh-round pick who hasn’t played a snap on offense.
• Right tackle: Coward, who started out as a defensive end, then filled in at left guard last year and right guard this season.
The Bears would have those five, plus seventh-round pick Lachavious Simmons and potential practice call-ups Dieter Eiselen and Badara Traore. Those eight were the only offensive linemen at practice Wednesday.
“You’ve got to try to forecast where guys will be,” Nagy said. “You have to have backup plans, so we try to as we’re creating a game plan to think of all the situations. If you don’t adjust and you just do things the way you’ve always done them, then you’ll end up being in trouble.”
The thing is, the Bears’ offensive line was already in trouble. It was arguably the most problematic unit on the team even before this rash of misfortune.
The Bears are 29th in yards per rush (3.8) and 31st in yards rushing per game (85.6). They have allowed the 10th-most sacks (20), including nine over the last two weeks when Nagy lamented that quarterback Nick Foles’ job is nearly impossible when he doesn’t have the time to step into a throw.
“I think the most important thing is just to know that there’s going to be a calmness in the huddle and we’re going to be in this together,” Foles said. “And if we make a mistake, it’s going to be all right. Let’s just keep playing.”