Position Battle (Back-ups): For those of you who aren’t die-hard Bears fans, most of these names will be unfamiliar. Despite the Bears coaching staff showing plenty of faith in Leno Jr, many fans still seem skeptical. If the fans are right and Leno Jr doesn’t pan out, there is literally no established depth behind him. That could change when some veterans are released as cap casualties, but for now the primary backup at left tackle is Nick Becton.
Don’t feel bad if you are unfamiliar with Becton, he’s only appeared in one NFL game for the Chargers back in 2013. Despite his lack of NFL playing time, Becton possesses ideal size for a tackle (6’6, 323) with long arms (35 1/2″) and NFL athleticism. He slipped through the draft mainly due to injuries that limited him to just one year as a starter at Virginia Tech.
He’s bounced around the league since his rookie year with the Chargers, spending time on the practice squads of the Giants and Saints where he caught the eye of Bears GM Ryan Pace. The Bears signed him to the practice squad before last season and he’s poised to make the leap to the Bears active roster in 2016 as Leno Jr’s primary backup.
Becton moves well for his size which could make him a good fit in Loggain’s zone-blocking scheme and also has good footwork in pass pro. He needs to stay healthy and improve his aggressiveness as a run blocker, but after a few years on multiple practice squads should have enough experience to step in if needed for Leno Jr and keep Cutler’s blindside clean.
The Bears are a little better off on the right side after signing veteran tackle Nate Chandler to back up Massie. Chandler, who just turned 27, is a former undrafted free agent who has spent his whole career with the Panthers so far. He’s appeared in 37 games for Carolina with 19 starts at both right guard and right tackle. After signing a three-year extension with the Panthers before the 2014 season, he suffered a knee injury which kept him on the IR for all of the 2015 season and led to his release from the Panthers.
The Bears moved quickly to lock up Chandler as depth at tackle, giving them insurance if Massie doesn’t pan out. Chandler is a bit undersized at 6’4, 295, but moves well for his size which makes him a good fit the Bears new zone-blocking scheme. His versatility to play tackle or guard gives the Bears some additional depth along the line as Chandler could probably play left tackle if needed as well.
Neither Becton or Chandler are sure things as backups at either tackle position, but on paper they both fit the mobile o-linemen profile that new OC Loggains is looking for and have untapped talent that the Bears could develop into quality depth if they can both stay healthy. It’s risky backing up unproven tackles with unproven back-ups but if things pan out the Bears could have four solid tackles with a minimal salary cap investment.
Next: Position Battle (53-man Roster)