NDIANAPOLIS – General manager Ryan Pace and the Bears accomplished one important offseason objective before even arriving at this week’s NFL Combine.
By signing right tackle Bobby Massie to a four-year extension Jan. 26 and restructuring right guard Kyle Long’s contract earlier this week, the Bears solidified the right side of their offensive line and ensured that all five of their starting linemen will return in 2019.
Massie has started 46 of 48 games in three seasons with the Bears, including all 16 for the NFC North Division champions in 2018. He originally joined the Bears in 2016 after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
“Continuity with our offensive line is critical, especially with the offensive tackles,” Pace said at the Combine. “Bobby’s done nothing but get better and better with each year and I think especially under [coach] Harry Hiestand’s guidance. So we’re encouraged to have [Massie] back and just have continuity on our offensive line.”
The rest of the Bears line consists of left tackle Charles Leno Jr., left guard James Daniels and center Cody Whitehair. Leno and Whitehair were voted to their first Pro Bowls in 2018, while Daniels was named to ESPN.com’s NFL All-Rookie Team after arriving as a second-round draft pick from Iowa.
A strong performance by the line enabled the offense to allow just 33 sacks, tied for the eighth fewest in the NFL, and helped the Bears score 24 or more points in 11 games, the most since they also produced 24 or more points 11 times in 1995. The Bears offense also drew just seven holding penalties all season, the fewest in the NFL.
The line was led by Hiestand, who returned for a second stint with the Bears in 2018 after spending the previous six seasons as offensive line coach at Notre Dame. Hiestand previously served in the same capacity with the Bears on Lovie Smith’s staff from 2005-09, helping the team win two NFC North titles and reach the Super Bowl in 2006.
Hiestand’s relentless focus on fundamentals helped the line improve throughout the course of the season.
“They believe in what he teaches them,” said coach Matt Nagy. “He’s hard on them, but yet he loves them. They understand watching film how they can get better. You see that with every one of our guys right now.”