Chicago Bears

Bears GM Ryan Poles: ‘You can never have enough offensive linemen’

The Chicago Bears’ primary objective this offseason is to protect quarterback Justin Fields from the beating he took as a rookie. The free-agent signing of center Lucas Patrick is a significant upgrade to the starting five, but it isn’t enough. General Manager Ryan Poles began the 2022 NFL Draft with a glaring hole at right guard, and he took some aggressive swings to fill it.

Those swings came on day three of the draft when Poles selected four offensive linemen, most of whom profile as interior players.

“You can never have enough offensive linemen,” Poles told ChicagoBears.com’s Larry Mayer. “It’s a position—at least from my experience—regardless of how it shakes out, it’s rare to finish a season with the starting five that you started the season with. So, anytime you can increase the volume of talent in that room, you’re getting better.”

The Bears certainly increased the volume of talent, but questions remain whether any of the day-three picks will turn into quality starters. Chicago has 17 offensive linemen under contract, a number that will get slashed by more than half once training camp concludes. Until then, Ryan Poles is excited about the competition that’s to ensue.

“The other thing I wanted to make sure we did is just increase the competition as well,” Poles said. “It’s human nature to relax when you feel there’s no threat to your job, so I want these young guys to come in and compete for jobs. That’s going to lift everyone in that entire room to know that they’ve got to compete and be their best self to make the team, as well as to make the starting line.”

Chicago Bears offensive line is a work in progress

As it currently stands, the Bears’ starting offensive line looks something like this: Larry Borom (LT), Cody Whitehair (LG), Lucas Patrick (C), Dakota Dozier (RG), Teven Jenkins (RT). With little competition added for either starting offensive tackle this offseason, and with Whitehair being the longest-tenured (and highest-paid) lineman of the bunch, three positions appear settled.

Patrick will start at either center or right guard depending on how this year’s rookie class performs. Sixth-round pick Doug Kramer (Illinois) is considered a darkhorse to earn the starting center job, which would accomplish two goals; Patrick can slide over to right guard. If Kramer doesn’t ascend to the first team, another rookie like San Diego State’s Zachary Thomas could emerge as a first-teamer at guard.

The obvious concern is that none of this year’s rookies are high-prized, blue-chip first-rounders. They’re all underdogs who will have to fight and scrape just to make the team, let alone earn a starting job. But there’s something intriguing about that; the underdog story is always more fun.

At the end of the day, all that matters is keeping Fields upright. And whoever the best men for that job are, they’ll be starting in Week 1… even if it’s a day-three pick.

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