How Bears plan to patch up OL if Whitehair, Jenkins can't play


Different offensive line combinations are nothing new for head coach Matt Eberlfus, offensive line coach Chris Morgan and the Bears. Through 14 weeks, the Bears have used eight different combinations up front.

That number likely will go up Saturday when the Bears host the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field. Both left guard Cody Whitehair (knee) and right guard Teven Jenkins (neck) are doubtful to play. The Bears are not expecting to have either in action Saturday.

With both starting guards likely down, the Bears will have to get inventive to field an offensive line that can keep quarterback Justin Fields upright against a good Bills defense.

Michael Schofield will handle one guard spot if either Jenkins or Whitehair can't go. If both can't go, then the Bears will get creative.

"Obviously,when you’re potentially losing two starters on the inside of your line, that’s a big thing," Eberflus said Thursday. "That’s something that we’ve obviously looked at all week. Schofield will be in there if one of them can’t go, and if the second guy can’t go we’ll see what happens. Larry Borom’s been working in there a little bit, which has been good. I think he’s done some good things. Again, those guys have always prepared in different spots, and you’ve got to have a pair and a spare; you’ve always got to do that, and the guys are excited about that."

Borom has not played a snap on the inside during his two-year NFL career. He has taken 1,011 snaps at right tackle and 85 at left tackle.

Still, Eberflus likes what he has seen from Borom during practice at guard.

“He looks comfortable in there," Eberflus said. "I think he’s done a good job in there all week, just being in that tighter space. He’s obviously a big guy who can move guys off the ball, which is good in our run game. I think he’s done a good job with his assignments in there, so it’s a good look.”

Borom isn't the only option, though.

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said that Alex Leatherwood and Riley Reiff have also worked inside more in practice with the Bears short-handed.

Leatherwood played 847 snaps at right guard last season for the Las Vegas Raiders. Reiff has not taken a snap at guard during his NFL career.

The Bears aren't in panic mode about their offensive-line situation, though.

"I feel good," Morgan said Wednesday. "Larry has been working there in practice, Alex has started games [at guard] in the past, and Riley is a vet, so he'll do whatever. So yeah, feel good about all three of those guys."

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Reiff and Leatherwood have platooned at right tackle over the past two games, while Borom has been recovering from a knee injury.

Eberflus wouldn't say if that platoon would continue Saturday or if the Bears plan to platoon at guard.

Leatherwood played 17 snaps in the Bears' Week 15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. In 10 pass-blocking snaps, he gave up one sack and three hurries.

He remains a work in progress, but one that might have to see the field more Saturday.

"I like his intent," Morgan said of Leatherwood's work over the past two games. "I like his effort. But he's like everybody. We got a lot to work on. A lot to work on technically, with our eyes. We got to get better."

If both Whitehair and Jenkins can't play, Eberflus said Schofield would play at right guard, meaning Borom, Leatherwood, or Reiff will get their first-career NFL snaps at left guard on Saturday.

For the Bears to upset the Bills and snap their seven-game losing streak, the offensive line must consistently hold up against Buffalo's pass rush.

A tough task will be more difficult without Whitehair and Jenkins on the line.

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