New offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn is key to the future offensive success of the Chicago Bears.
Chicago’s interior was arguably the league’s best
The Chicago Bears hired Jeremiah Washburn at the beginning of the year to be their new offensive line coach. He replaced Dave Magazu, who, despite rumors he was disliked by players, guided the Bears to what Pro Football Focus (PFF) considered one of the best interior offensive lines in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Washburn was coaching the Dolphins offensive line. They were graded 30th in the league by PFF. The three previous years he led the Lions’ line, and they were never outstanding despite significant draft pick investments. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Why was Washburn hired? He’s got multiple connections.
First and foremost, he’s linked to former Bears’ offensive coordinator Adam Gase via the 2016 Dolphins. Washburn led a Dolphin line that allowed Jay Ajayi a 1,272 rushing season. That total is a bit misleading, however, since 624 of those yards were in three games. Ajayi rushed for less than 50 yards per game in the remaining 13 games.
Second, he’s got collegiate ties to current Bears’ offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. Washburn was a graduate assistant at Arkansas when Loggains joined the team.
Third, he’s already worked for John Fox. In 2002 when Fox was the head coach in Carolina, Washburn joined on as a football operations assistant.
2017 Offensive Line outlook
Going into the 2017 NFL Draft, it was pretty clear the Chicago Bears had a solid interior and a weak pair of tackles. Moreover, Hroniss Grasu provides excellent depth behind starting center Cody Whitehair. The team ignored conventional wisdom, however, and didn’t upgrade either tackle position in free agency or the draft. They drafted Jordan Morgan, who is projected as a guard.
Unless the Bears plan to unveil a new three-man offensive line upon the NFL – pretty sure that’s illegal – then the same tackle question marks remain from 2016 to 2017. That should worry Bears’ fans. Or maybe Washburn thinks he can turn Charles Leno Jr. into a star? That should also worry Bears’ fans.
Furthermore, it appears there is considerable uncertainty regarding star right guard Kyle Long. Not only has it been rumored he may switch positions again, but he is still dealing with lingering 2016 ankle issues.
It’s pretty clear GM Ryan Pace is playing the long game in Chicago. Coupling Long’s health uncertainty, the potential guard flip-flop, and the same starting tackles as 2016 means Washburn has a tough year ahead. A very tough year. As such, don’t expect Pace to start his franchise pick Mitch Trubisky behind the current, risky offensive line. There is a reason Jay Cutler recommended Trubisky ride the pine in 2017, and it’s entirely related to the beating Cutler took while playing behind poor offensive lines his entire time in Chicago.
Make no mistake, Mike Glennon is falling on the sword in 2016. He may even take Fox with him. After Glennon’s inevitably mediocre 2017, look for the Chicago Bears to invest heavily in offensive line talent to protect wunderkind Trubisky. At that point, it’s up to Jeremiah Washburn to ensure offensive success, and to prove Pace prophetic.