The Chicago Bears bad injury luck continued today with promising 2nd-year center Hroniss Grasu suffering what’s being dubbed a “fairly serious” leg injury” according to HC John Fox. He should know as he had a bird’s eye view of it, when Grasu collapsed to the turf in front of Fox while trying to get in front of running back Jacquizz Rodgers on a screen play.
There was no contact on the play, which suggests a pull or tear that could keep Grasu sidelined for a long-time depending on the severity. The Bears seem cursed with their offensive lineman this offseason, having already lost Manny Ramirez and Nate Chandler to retirement and Adrian Bellard to season-ending injury.
The timing couldn’t be worse for Grasu who had been having a great camp so far, looking stronger than last year, more confident in his assignments, and developing as a leader on the Bears young o-line. The Tribune’s Brad Biggs called Grasu the most improved player in camp so far. Of course, there hasn’t been an official diagnosis on the injury so maybe the Bears will get lucky… But how often do the Bears get lucky?
If Grasu is out the Bears can move veteran Matt Slauson over the center like they did last year… Oh wait, they can’t after letting Slauson go for no clear reason. So that leaves a significant hole at center which could be filled by journeyman Ted Larsen (not good) or perhaps rookie Cody Whitehair, who played the position some in college.
The addition of free agent Amini Solatolu and his recent passed physical could end up being a huge signing for the Bears, if Grasu is out for a significant amount of time. Silatolu is a road-grading run blocker at left guard, where he’s started 28 games in four years, and could allow the Bears to move rookie Whitehair inside while keeping Larsen as depth (where he belongs).
An offensive line (left-to-right) of Leno, Silatolu, Whitehair, Long, Massey) still has plenty of potential with an average age of 25.8, but leaves them very thin with veterans Larsen, Garry Williams, and untested Nick Becton as the primary depth.
A dark horse option is 2nd-year center Cornelius Edison, who was a DII All-American and won the Rimington award for best DII center in 2014. He’s had a year on the Bears practice squad to adjust to the speed and strength of the NFL and has a chance to earn a roster spot as a back-up, if not more. I watched a lot of Cardinals games last year and Ted Larsen isn’t much of a roadblock for any of the young Bears to beat out.
Recently signed rookie Donovan Williams out of Louisiana-Lafayette is even more of a long-shot as he just joined the team a few weeks ago and can’t have much of a grasp on the offense yet. Williams does have an intriguing mix of size (6’2, 318) and speed (5.12) with the movement skills that fit in well with the Bears zone-blocking scheme. I expect Williams to start the year on the practice squad, but if the Bears are struggling at the center position late in the year than Williams may get a shot.
Despite having some viable options to replace Grasu in Whitehair and Larsen plus young depth like Edison and Williams, this is still a devasting blow to the Bears offensive line. Grasu has become a leader on the Bears young o-line in just a year and a half and looked like a different player this offseason. A player that could lead the Bears young offensive line and perhaps become an impact player at center. Hopefully the injury wasn’t as bad as it looks and Grasu will be ready to play by week one, but the Beas should start planning in case he’s not.