Charles Leno Jr. is feeling bullish about the state of the Bears offensive line.
Leno is entering his seventh year in Chicago, the sixth as the team's starting left tackle. As the longest-tenured member of the line, Leno sees the unit gelling together. He admits they have a head start, as four of the members have been playing together for more than two years.
While the line is mostly the same from last season, there are a few wrinkles to absorb. The team brought in Germain Ifedi to handle the right guard position. They have also made permanent the midseason switch that moved Cody Whitehair back to center and third-year player James Daniels to left guard.
The permanent switch has allowed Leno to build chemistry with Daniels.
"The crazy thing about it, just looking from my perspective on the left, this is the first camp me and James Daniels actually had together," said Leno. "His rookie year, he was going from center and guard, bouncing around, and I had another guard next to me. And then last year, he was at center, so this is actually the first time that me and James are playing well together and playing together. That's gonna help our play going into the season."
While he's focused on the left side, Leno feels confident about the rest of the line as well.
"We've got Cody at the helm," Leno said. "Cody's our fearless leader. He's the guy that sets everybody up, so we all trust in him. Then, Germain and [right tackle] Bobby [Massie], they're doing really well right now, just gelling well together."
Leno is looking for a fresh start after the line regressed in certain areas last season. The 2019 season, compared to 2018, saw a 25 percent decrease in rushing yards and a 36 percent increase in sacks allowed. Leno believes that the unit has a new attitude that will enable them to return to form.
"'Aggressive and attacking,' that's the mindset for the offense this year," said Leno. "I can't tell you what that's going to look like on the field, but I know that's the mindset we all have going out there. So, I'll start with that. Definitely locking in on the details."
Leno acknowledged that the line "slipped" in its attention to detail last season. He believes that affected the types of plays that were being called.
"We were really conservative in a lot of play calls and stuff like that last year," said Leno. "Even coming from an offensive line perspective, we weren't really attacking that much as a front five, moving guys off the ball. So we'll be definitely doing more of that this year."
Leno has long expressed his fondness for the running game. He hopes that his new approach will encourage the coaching staff to run the ball more, though he clarified that he understands last season's reticence.
"We gotta do a better job of putting the onus on ourselves first," said Leno. "We gotta do a better job of creating that space, but then also we would love more run calls being called, so whoever the play caller is, we hope that'd be the case. If it was me, I'd run every play."