Chicago Bears interior offensive lineman Dakota Dozier was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after suffering a leg injury during minicamp earlier this month. The Bears signed the seven-year veteran in free agency to compete for the starting right guard role. With his 2022 season in jeopardy, the Bears’ already thin offensive line just got thinner.
Dozier wasn’t the favorite to emerge as the Bears’ right guard. But his 27 career starts and experience in the NFC North made him a valuable asset to an offensive line that has no solution at the position. Last year’s starting center, Sam Mustipher, will begin training camp with the first team. But if he opens the regular season as the starter, Chicago’s offense is in big trouble.
Behind Mustipher is a collection of rookies, one of which could emerge as the best option. San Diego State’s Zachary Thomas looks the part after a successful collegiate career as a starting right tackle. Ja’Tyre Carter, a small-school standout from Southern, will be an interior player in the NFL and should factor into the competition. There’s a chance — a good one at this point — that 2021 second-round pick, Teven Jenkins, will be making a permanent position change and compete at guard too.
General manager Ryan Poles has to consider outside options as well. The free-agent market isn’t overflowing with quality veterans, but the Bears can’t be picky at this point. According to Spotrac’s list of available interior offensive linemen, players like Ereck Flowers, Trey Hopkins, and Billy Price are the ‘big’ names. None of them move the needle much.
The Bears have no one to blame for this precarious situation but themselves. The offensive line was supposed to be a big focus of the offseason. Instead, the result was one quality free-agent signing (center Lucas Patrick), and four draft picks on day three. Don’t get me wrong; I like Poles’ approach in the NFL Draft. Swing on players in the later rounds and hope you connect on a home run. But The Chicago Bears should’ve signed another starting offensive lineman in free agency. At the very least, Poles could’ve re-signed James Daniels. His three-year, $26.5 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn’t bank-breaking.
Here’s my best bet on what the Chicago Bears’ starting offensive line will be (at this point): Braxton Jones (LT), Cody Whitehair (LG), Lucas Patrick (C), Teven Jenkins (RG), and Larry Borom (RT). It’s a weird combination that wasn’t the predicted outcome one month ago. But with the emergence of Jones during offseason workouts and Jenkins’ inability to impress coaches over that same span, it seems inevitable.
Perhaps, the Bears will be fine. Maybe Jenkins is an All-Pro guard waiting to blossom. That feels like wishful thinking, though. And if the Chicago Bears want to compete in 2022, Poles, an offensive lineman by trade, has his work cut out for him.
Bryan is the founder and managing editor of Bears Talk. His previous stops include Bears coverage for NBC Sports Chicago and USA Today. His NFL Draft and Bears coverage has also been featured on The Draft Network.