It was clear from the first drive of the game against the Oakland Raiders that the Chicago Bears’ offensive line was going to struggle.
After Chase Daniel completed a pass to Tarik Cohen for five yards on first down, Charles Leno Jr. committed a holding penalty on the next play. Then with the offense facing second-and-15, he gave up a sack to add to his already lackluster start.
That was just the beginning for Leno Jr. On the offense’s ninth drive of the game, he was flagged two more times: one for a false start and one for holding. After five weeks, he has been penalized eight times, which is more than any other player in the league.
Although Leno Jr. could do no right against the Raiders, and that was evident from more than just his penalties, he has just been one of the many problems that have been holding back this offensive line through the first five games of the 2019 NFL season.
Plain and simple, the O-line has been atrocious so far, and the way that Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Kyle Long and Bobby Massie have been playing is the biggest issue with this Bears team heading into the Bye week.
Yes, that means the starting offensive line has been even worse than Chicago’s quarterbacks. And that is saying something.
In the Bears’ 24-21 loss to the Raiders, Chicago finished with 42 yards rushing yards on 17 carries (2.5 yards per carry). Currently, the Bears are ranked 29th in the league with their 3.4 YPC. Running backs David Montgomery and Cohen should be far more productive running the ball, but the offensive line isn’t giving either one of them any help.
Similar to the first four postgame press conferences this season, Matt Nagy was not pleased with his team’s running game against the Raiders.
“Our run game needs to get better,” Nagy said.
After the second-year head coach was able to watch the tape, he had similar thoughts on the following Monday.
“The production right now in the run game isn’t there,” Nagy said. “I’m going to figure out the why part, and I told you [the media] last night I think I know. I will have a lot more.”
Well, at least Nagy isn’t oblivious to the obvious issues, but there hasn’t been any progress to finding a solution to the problem.
When looking at the Bears’ issues with the run game, you have to go further back than these past five games. Chicago finished the 2018 season tied for 26th in the league with their 4.1 YPC. That number was worse, too, in the Wildcard game against the Eagles, when the team finished with 3.6 YPC.
So, the problems that continue to persist in the run game are not new. However, this season has been worse. But, why has the offensive line regressed in Year 2 under Nagy? This is especially surprising because the Bears have one of the best offensive line coaches in the game in Harry Hiestand.
Part of the answer can be found in Nagy’s press conference on Monday following the loss to the Raiders. Nagy mentioned that players need to start winning their one-on-one battles, which has clearly not happened in these first five games of the season.
Just take a look at this play from Long.
— Nicholas Moreano (@NicholasMoreano) October 8, 2019
Obviously, it isn’t just Long that has struggled this season, but there could be a possibility he may take a back seat in the near future to undrafted free agent Alex Bars. According to Chicago Tribune reporter Brad Biggs, Bars turned down an offer to join the New England Patriots 53-man roster and instead chose to stay on the Bears’ practice squad.
With how bad the offensive line has been and with Long not even close to playing like the Pro Bowler he once was, it wouldn’t hurt to try Bars at right guard.
It also wouldn’t be a bad idea if Nagy watched every single run play that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan called against the Browns on Monday night. Fair warning, the run schemes in the video below are perfectly executed and they will cause envy in Bears fans.
.@49ers are striking gold with their run game. @MattBreida, @Teco_Raww, and crew rushed for 275 yds Monday night against the Browns. The O-Line is knocking guys off the ball for Kyle Shanahan's # 1 offense and has them 4-0 for the first time since 1990 #BaldysBreakdowns #GoNiners pic.twitter.com/u31cI7xBvK
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) October 9, 2019
Nagy has been praised in the past for his creativity, and he will have to put that in full effect to make the proper adjustments to his offense.
For Chicago to be considered a legitimate threat in the NFC, the O-line must be better. The Bears have 11 days to come up with a plan to improve the running game before their Week 7 matchup with the New Orleans Saints.