The Chicago Bears placed offensive guard Dakota Dozier on injured reserve on Tuesday. The move comes a week after Dozier suffered an apparent left leg injury during a minicamp practice.
Dozier’s injury leaves Chicago even more vulnerable at the offensive guard position, where Sam Mustipher is the favorite for the vacant right guard job. Will general manager Ryan Poles turn to a free agent to bring in a veteran? Or will he turn to his young roster to step up?
There are still a number of lingering questions along the offensive line, including what the starting line will look like. It’s still a work in progress just a few weeks ahead of training camp.
Following Dozier landing on IR, here’s a look at the Bears’ offensive line depth:
Cody Whitehair is coming off arguably his worst season with the Bears, but he’s still been a solid offensive lineman since being drafted by Chicago in 2016. Whitehair has played primarily left guard, although he’s also spent time at center. With the addition of Lucas Patrick, it seems a safe bet for Whitehair to remain at left guard.
Lucas Patrick comes to Chicago with experience playing in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system. He’s a versatile interior lineman who’s played three different positions – left guard, center and right guard. Patrick revealed that he was brought in to serve as the center, which gives Justin Fields someone with experience snapping him the ball.
Larry Borom got his first starting opportunity at right tackle in Week 8, replacing an injured Germain Ifedi, and he was an immediate upgrade. He held his own against some of the best pass rushers and showed versatility playing both right and left tackle. Borom has seen action both at left tackle and right tackle this offseason, so it’s still a question of where he’ll be lining up.
Teven Jenkins missed most of his rookie season after back surgery during training camp. When he did return, he saw limited action at left tackle, including two starts. Jenkins has settled into the right tackle spot. Jenkins was working with the second-team offense during the final week of OTAs and during a minicamp. We’ll see where he lines up coming training camp.
Braxton Jones was the first offensive lineman selected by Chicago in the draft, and he could contribute immediately as a rookie. Jones has experience playing both left and right tackle at the collegiate level, but he’s been seeing reps at left tackle with the first-team offense during the final week of OTAs and mandatory minicamp. Jones is emerging as a contender for the starting left tackle job.
The Bears tendered Sam Mustipher as an exclusive rights free agent earlier this offseason. Mustipher started 17 games at center for Chicago last season, but he was a liability on the offensive line. While many expected Mustipher not to factor into any starting plans, he’s been getting reps at right guard with the first-time offense. We’ll see if that trend continues into training camp.
Julién Davenport reunites with Matt Eberflus in Chicago after spending last year with the Colts. He appeared in nine games, including four starts. Davenport, a former fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, spent the 2018 season as the starting left tackle for the Texans. He was later dealt to the Dolphins as part of the Laremy Tunsil trade. Davenport projects as a potential swing tackle for the Bears.
Zachary Thomas is a versatile offensive lineman with experience playing three different positions during his time at San Diego State. While Thomas has played primarily right tackle (17 games) and left tackle (12), he started out as a guard. Thomas saw reps with the starters when Whitehair was an excused absence in the minicamp, an indication Thomas could be the next-man-up at left guard for Chicago.
Doug Kramer is a homegrown product, growing up in Hinsdale, a western suburb of Chicago, and playing football at Illinois. Kramer is the lone center taken in the draft, where he’s a developmental prospect behind starter Lucas Patrick. But he also has experience playing guard. Kramer saw starting reps at center during team drills during one minicamp practice, an indication he might be Patrick’s backup.
Ja’Tyre Carter is one of the most intriguing prospects coming out of the draft for the Bears. He was a four-year starter during his time at Southern, where he made 37 starts at left tackle. But he plans to kick inside to guard at the NFL level. We’ll see if Carter can develop into a starter down the line. But for now, he’s good depth at both guard and tackle for Chicago.
The Bears signed Shon Coleman earlier this offseason, the latest former Colt to join Eberflus’ roster. Coleman, a former third-round pick in 2016, started every game at right tackle for the Browns in 2017. He was traded to the 49ers in 2018, although he didn’t play in a regular season game. Coleman missed the 2019 season due to injury and opted out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. Coleman projects as depth at tackle.
Lachavious Simmons, a former seventh-round pick, was also tendered by the Bears as an exclusive rights free agent not long ago. He played in two games in 2021, including one start, at right tackle. Simmons doesn’t factor into the starting lineup and will serve as depth at tackle.
Dieter Eiselen, who signed a reserve / future contract earlier this offseason, has played in just three NFL games. He spent most of the last two seasons on the Bears’ practice squad. The 25-year-old is projected to have the same fate this season.
The Bears signed Willie Wright to a reserve / future contract earlier this offseason. Wright previously spent time with the Falcons on their practice squad. He figures to have a chance at earning a spot on the practice squad.