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New-look offensive line continues to impress

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Little has changed in coach Matt Nagy's assessment of his offensive line after Sunday's 33-27 win against the Minnesota Vikings.

He still believes he's found the right five players to make the offense click.

After trying six different combinations, due in part to a string of injuries, Nagy believes that the line that debuted against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12 has only continued to build chemistry.

"We had a feeling coming out of the bye," said Nagy, "that health-wise and then position-wise, putting these guys in these spots is what's best for this offense, not just in the run game but in the pass game as well. And I think that [offensive line coach] Juan Castillo [working] with these guys and [assistant line coach] Donovan Raiola, just working to their strengths and then keeping that consistency with schematics of what we want to do has been really good."

The moves are well-documented. First-year center Sam Mustipher moved into the starting lineup, along with his college teammate, right guard Alex Bars. Cody Whitehair moved from center to left guard while Germain Ifedi moved to right tackle. Only left tackle Charles Leno Jr., one of the team's longest-tenured players, stayed in the same role.

Since the change, running back David Montgomery has topped 100 rushing yards three times in four games. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has shown more consistency than he did at any point in 2019.

"I'll start off with just saying that, again, when somebody goes down with an injury," said Nagy, "and sometimes you're forced into certain decisions, and you see if a guy is ready or not ready. That happened with us with both Sam and Alex."

Mustipher's intelligence and temperament have drawn praise from teammates and coaches alike. Nagy referenced stories that he heard about Mustipher taking on a vocal leadership role while playing on a Notre Dame offensive line that included several future pros, including Bars.

Nagy highlighted the importance of communication in the interior of the line, as opposed to the tackles who spend more of their time fighting one-on-one battles.

Earlier in his career, Ifedi struggled with the outside position's nuances, but Nagy credits the former first-round pick with taking his development seriously after he arrived in Chicago.

"Regardless of his past and what happened in Seattle," said Nagy, "I know that Juan Castillo really works a lot of fundamentals with these guys. The one good thing and one strength that Juan has is with the repetition of fundamentals over and over and over, he gets these guys to really believe in what they're doing, and that's a strength of Juan's, and it works out for these guys, these players. I think you're seeing that right now with Germain."

Nagy appreciated Ifedi's willingness to adjust. The veteran has played as well, if not better, at tackle as he had at guard.

"It's just been good for us," said Nagy. "That's the selfless part. He never at one point said, at one point in time said, 'Uh, you know, I've done that at tackle, I just want to play guard, how you gonna switch me back out at tackle?' [He] never did that. He embraced it from the start, and it's benefiting us right now."

Nagy likes the cohesion the new line has brought to the rest of the team, believing that the energy brought by Mustipher, in particular, has spread through the entire offense.

"When you watch tape, you see these linemen," said Nagy, "they're running to the ball, they're picking guys up off the ground, they're celebrating. Go check out the touchdown run [by David Montgomery] and watch Sam Mustipher's celebration after the touchdown. It's pretty neat, and that's kind of where we're at right now. So it starts right there and it starts with the belief and trust then filters down to or moves on to David at running back, to CP (Cordarrelle Patterson) at running back, to Mitchell at quarterback."

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