Anyone who was hoping Jason Peters, Germain Ifedi and the Bears’ first-team offensive line would look like a well-oiled machine was in for a disappointment Saturday night.
Peters and Ifedi, in particular, showed the effects of rust in their first snaps of the preseason against the Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. That was to be expected. The big question now is how much better they’ll be when the Bears face Aaron Donald and the Rams in the regular-season opener Sept. 12 at SoFi Stadium.
The first-team offensive line played the entire first half against the Titans — left tackle Peters, left guard Cody Whitehair, center Sam Mustipher, right guard James Daniels and right tackle Ifedi. For what it’s worth, they were only as good as quarterback Justin Fields.
In four first-half possessions, the Bears gained 99 net yards on 22 snaps, including 35 yards in Titans penalties. The Bears gained only 21 yards on 15 snaps before Fields engineered a 78-yard touchdown drive in the last 1:43 of the first half.
The last play of that drive told the tale of the offensive line. Peters allowed pressure from reserve outside linebacker Derick Roberson and Ifedi allowed pressure from reserve outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi on first-and-10 from the Titans’ 20-yard line.
But Fields avoided the pressure, stepping up and rolling to his right to throw a perfect back-shoulder pass to reserve tight end Jesper Horsted against tight coverage along the right sideline of the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Bears a 14-10 halftime lead.
The Bears were unable to establish a running game in the first half and only scored on offense when Fields was in a two-minute drill. On the opening series, running back Damien Williams gained six yards on first down but was stopped for no gain on second down. On third-and-four, Adeniyi — mainly a special-teams contributor — beat Ifedi to sack Fields and force a punt.
On the Bears’ second possession, Williams, running behind Mustipher and Whitehair, was stopped for a one-yard gain on third-and-two. On fourth-and-one at the Titans’ 49-yard line, the Bears went for it, but Williams was stopped for no gain by inside linebacker Jayon Brown, who came in unblocked.
The line put the Bears in a hole on their third possession. On first-and-10, Ifedi was penalized for a false start. On first-and-15, Mustipher was called for holding. The Bears almost got out of it when Fields threw an apparent 11-yard completion to Rodney Adams. But the play was challenged and overturned when replays indicated Adams’ elbow touched the ground before his second foot did.
Overall, it was a performance that wasn’t much of an indicator for the offensive line. The rust is to be expected. And with Peters having been signed last week and Ifedi on the physically unable-to-perform (PUP) list with a hip flexor until Monday, this was the first time that line coach Juan Castillo could put the starting group together.
The Bears still have to determine if Peters is in shape to start and play an entire game after arriving in camp Aug. 19. Coach Matt Nagy indicated last week that Peters will help make the call on the conditioning front and said a rotation, presumably with rookie Larry Borom, against the Rams is a possibility.
But whether it’s Peters, Borom or both, the Bears’ offensive line will have to come together quickly to match up with a Rams defense that ranked second in the NFL in sacks last season. Time suddenly is running out.