Player to Watch: Charles Leno Jr
I was higher than most on Leno Jr going into the 2015 season, picking him as one of my breakout players. I took a lot of flack for it and plenty of fans still don’t think Leno Jr had a breakout season. Considering that he went from the roster bubble to the Bears starting left tackle… There is no question that Leno Jr made a huge leap in his 2nd season.
There were some growing pains as he adjusted to the position, but by the end of the year Leno Jr was playing like a league-average left tackle. With a year of experience under his belt and a full off-season to prepare for 2016, Leno Jr will have to make another leap to lock down the position long-term.
The Bears don’t have a clear-cut backup at left tackle on the roster, so they clearly trust Leno and are counting on him to protect Cutler’s blind-side all season. If Leno Jr can continue to improve, the Bears will have an asset at one of the toughest, most expensive positions to fill, for a contract barely over the minimum ($611k in 2016).
If Leno Jr doesn’t improve or regresses, it will be a long season for Jay Cutler. The Bears offense will have to adjust by keeping in an extra blocker or tight end to help which will handcuff some of their play-calling. That’s a lot riding on a former 7th round pick and without an experienced back-up ready, which makes Leno Jr one of the most important players to watch on the Bears offense this year.