The Bears offensive line was one of many key topics that general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus discussed with reporters earlier this week at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. Here are five things we learned from those conversations:
(1) Eberflus is thrilled about the addition of veteran free agent guard Nate Davis, a former division rival when the Bears coach was Colts defensive coordinator.
"I went against Nate Davis all those years in Tennessee," Eberflus said. "Man, he's an aggressive, our-style type of player [who] can really move people at the second level."
Davis, 26, was selected by the Titans in the third round of the 2019 draft out of Charlotte. The 6-3, 316-pounder started 54 of 55 games he played with Tennessee over the past four seasons. He also started five playoff games.
With the Titans, Davis helped open holes for star running back Derrick Henry. During their four seasons as teammates, Henry was selected to three Pro Bowls, named first-team All-Pro in 2020 and second-team All-Pro in 2019, and led the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2019 and 2020.
In addition to run blocking, the Bears are also counting on Davis to help protect quarterback Justin Fields.
"The inside of the pocket is sometimes underrated a little bit in terms of keeping that clean for quarterbacks because that's where direct pressure is," Eberflus said. "I think Nate does a really good job of being able to anchor, redirect his balance when it gets off a little bit, but he's done a really good job with that."
Take a look at new Bears offensive lineman Nate Davis in action. The 6-3, 316-pounder started 54 of 55 games he played with Tennessee over the past four seasons.
(2) After finding a home at guard last season, it appears at least for now that Teven Jenkins will remain at that position.
Last year the 2021 second-round pick missed the first week of training camp with an injury, was the subject of trade rumors and then lined up as the third-team right tackle upon returning to practice. But Jenkins moved to right guard midway through camp and flourished there, playing in 13 games with 11 starts at his new position, though he missed four contests with a neck injury.
"The way he left off at the guard position, I think that's where he's going to continue to excel," Poles said. "We'll see how the draft goes. It goes back to last year, and we mean it: the best five are going to go out there and play. Some of those guys are going to have to be a little bit more flexible, but we feel like the best five, regardless of where someone feels extremely comfortable, if the whole five plays at a high level, then we feel good about that."
(3) Poles believes that the Bears are more likely to land a starting offensive tackle in the draft than at this juncture in free agency.
"When you get to this point of free agency, it drops off," Poles said. "The salaries drop off, talent, experience drops off. You do have a wave of players offensively and defensively that will go through the draft because they kind of want to see how everything settles. So, we'll keep an eye on those players. But right now, to improve our team, I think we've got to look to the draft."
The Bears have three picks in the first two rounds: No. 9 in Round 1 and Nos. 53 and 61 in Round 2. Asked if believes he can land a starting offensive tackle with one of those selections, Poles said: "Yeah, I feel confident that we can address some of our needs in that space and get good players that can help us."
(4) Eberflus feels that Braxton Jones, who showed promise while starting all 17 games at left tackle as a rookie last season, also could play right tackle.
"I think he can go on both sides," Eberflus said. "Obviously, some of the linemen prefer one side or the other. They prefer the right-hand stance or the left-hand stance, where the angles are and all that. That's something you always have to look at, for sure."
After being selected in the fifth round of last year's draft out of Southern Utah, Jones joined the No. 1 offense at left tackle during OTAs the first week of June and never relinquished the position. He not only started all 17 games as a rookie but was the only Bears player who played every snap in 2022.
(5) Regardless of who lines up where, Eberflus has the utmost confident that offensive line coach Chris Morgan will get the most out of his players.
"He's a teacher," Eberflus said. "That's what I wanted to hire when we hired all these guys is teachers first and the guys that have a heart of service, and that's what he has. He's got great instincts as a coach.
"I think to be a master coach, you have to have great instincts about the room and about the individual to be able to push and pull and to hug and move to where you need to go to get that player to be his best, and he certainly does that. The camaraderie in that room is really good. That's part of the presence of the men in the room, but of course Chris Morgan does a great job with that as well."