Offensive line is vital for Bears as they eye options in draft

And they’re uniquely qualified to fix that problem, given that GM Ryan Poles and assistant GM Ian Cunningham specialize in that position.

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A photo of Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan and coach Matt Eberflus on the field during a practice at Halas Hall.

Offensive line coach Chris Morgan (left) will have a significant influence on what the Bears do with the No. 9 pick.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Bears should be well-equipped to solve the biggest problem on their roster. After a season in which no NFL quarterback was sacked more often than Justin Fields, the two men running the Bears’ draft are former offensive linemen.

And just to make sure they have the most thorough evaluation possible, general manager Ryan Poles and assistant GM Ian Cunningham brought offensive line coach Chris Morgan along for prospects’ pro days.

‘‘Playing the position helps in terms of you know what is asked of those guys,’’ Cunningham said Tuesday. ‘‘And when you have a guy like Chris Morgan and have the confidence in his development of players, you feel comfortable taking a player you know has some upside because he is going to get the most out of him.’’

So if the Bears take an offensive lineman with the No. 9 pick Thursday, everything is in their favor to get it right. Although trading that far down when they opted out of the No. 1 pick took them out of reach of the top-tier overall talent, they likely will have their choice among offensive linemen.

With four quarterbacks potentially going among the top eight picks, the Bears like their chances of getting great value at No. 9. But the contingencies are nearly endless.

‘‘We’re always using as many scenarios as we can,’’ Cunningham said. ‘‘You try to put yourself in the worst-case position and see what that looks like, and you feel comfortable with the decisions we’ll ultimately make.’’

Cornerback, defensive tackle and defensive end are also pressing needs for the Bears. But if they stick to offensive tackles, there are four in play.

Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski opened as the consensus leader, but Ohio State’s Paris Johnson has overtaken him in most projections and stands as the Bears’ most likely pick. Georgia’s Broderick Jones and Tennessee’s Darnell Wright are also in the mix.

Poles and Cunningham — with input from Morgan and coach Matt Eberflus — must project who will be the best in the long run, rather than who looks readiest now.

Offensive tackles aren’t nearly as thrilling as more obvious playmakers, but they’re vital. Landing a multiyear All-Pro-caliber left tackle in the draft would upgrade Fields’ play, as well. Plus, it probably would give the Bears their sturdiest offensive line since 2018.

Braxton Jones was a nice find in the fifth round out of Southern Utah last year and started every game at left tackle as a rookie. But when Eberflus was asked last month if moving Jones to right tackle is a legitimate possibility, he said, ‘‘We have to go through the draft and see what we do there.’’

In the middle, the Bears are planning on Cody Whitehair at center, newly signed free agent Nate Davis at one of the guard spots and potentially Teven Jenkins at the other.

That would be a viable quintet, and putting those pieces in place would give Fields the opportunity he has been waiting for since the Bears drafted him.

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