Exposing the Bears' Best-Five Theory – Sports Illustrated

Bears coach Matt Eberflus might be a neophyte when it comes to the role of head coach but he already has down some of the convenient and vague terminology head NFL coaches use.
When asked about his offensive line and where players would line up for the start of training camp, he relied on the tried but true cliche of "best-five players."
"So we're just trying to find the best combinations of people, especially when you're looking at the offensive line," Eberflus said. "Who's the best 5 guys out there so we can succeed and it creates competition when you do that, you know when you're moving guys around. Who can function at different spots and who can really execute?"
This is usually so much hogwash.
There are unique positions on the line and it's not a collection of five blockers who then get assigned those positions. Othewise, teams would simply get the five best tackles they can find and throw them onto the field because they're usually the best overall linemen.
There's a position called center that requires someone who can snap a football before they even block, so they need a player like this. The three interior blocking spots are similar except for that small matter of snapping a ball before engaging in blocks. And the tackle spots are nothing like any of the interior positions because of the need for players who can operate in space and have long arms to reach out and get a hand on edge rushers.
The big questions the Bears face are at both tackle spots and at right guard. They have been asked about moving Teven Jenkins to right guard for the start of camp but brushed aside the question with vague cliches again.
The Bears countdown to camp continues with Nos. 79-75 with tackles at the heart of this matter. Or will they be tackles at camp?
(Offense)
6-foot-5, 357 pounds
2022 Dossier: The undrafted Florida rookie took part on an offensive line that helped the Gators rank top five in rushing offense nationally through much of last year, and was top five in pass blocking. For his part of it, NFL Draft Bible described Delance as a "Skinny, long-armed, athletic tackle who is much better in pass pro due to him being athletic but not at all mauling in the run game." So it seems his weight needs to be established because either he is a 357-pound plodder as the Bears have listed him, or he is the 303-pound tackle the NFL had him at during the combine. At OTAs and minicamp, Delance hardly looked the part of a balooning player who let himself go and gained 50 pounds in a few months, so possibly the Bears have the wrong weight listed for him.
2022 Prospectus: With so many draft picks and more experienced players ahead of him on the roster, Delance will be fortunate to make enough of an impression to help earn a spot on the practice squad.
(Defense)
6-4, 320
The Dossier: Classified as a first-year player based on three games with the Houston Texans in 2020 as an undrafted free agent out of West Georgia, Alufohai came to the Bears practice squad last December under the Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy regime. He has been a two-gap type of lineman so far in the NFL and now is trying to play the one-gap front. Alufohai was with the Packers practice squad briefly last year before coming to the Bears.
2022 Prospectus: A long shot to be in the running for a roster spot, he might not even be a player they want to retain for the practice squad because his background is in the 3-4, two-gap front and not the 4-3, single-gap the Bears are using. He'll most likely line up at nose tackle, unless they decide to give him a look at three technique. This seems unlikely because of his size and lack of great quickness.
6-foot-6, 321 pounds
The Dossier: Jenkins returned from back surgery to make a rough debut in the NFL last year, including two starts. As much as he struggled in the first game he played at Green Bay, he still emerged with a 62.7 run-blocking grade for the year from Pro Football Focus, which is a respectable mark for a rookie. His overall grade of 47.5 reflected the early pass blocking issues against the Packers as much as anything. Jenkins has been practicing in the offseason with the second team at right tackle behind last year's starter there, second-year tackle Larry Borom. He did get two weeks worth of practices at starting right tackle before the team tried rookie Braxton Jones at starting left tackle and had Borom playing left tackle. When asked if he would consider using Jenkins at right guard, where there is a real need, coach Matt Eberflus merely said all combinations are open and left it at that. Jenkins was a devastating run blocker in his senior year at Oklahoma State and the back injury he had in offseason last year that kept him from playing until six games remained. He got in for 162 offensive snaps last year and the expectation is he would improve drastically with a training camp and preseason as a base instead of doing what he had to do last year.
2022 Prospectus: It's wide open but the smart money says he'll eventually be a guard. Jenkins has relatively short arms and smaller hands, which makes it difficult for tackles trying to get their hands on an edge rusher. He's fast enough to play either spot and does have outstanding run-blocking technique. Anticipate he'll eventually be put at right guard, unless coaches simply believe Braxton Jones is way too green to be a starting left tackle. In that case, Jenkins will start anyway but it will be at right tackle. He has been a player in college who caught on quickly.
6-5, 333
The Dossier: Borom got into 10 games with eight starts as a rookie, all of the starts coming at right tackle. He did make a few appearances at left tackle when Jason Peters went out with an injury. Borom earned a 61.4 blocking grade from Pro Football Focus on the year but allowed five sacks with four penalties committed.
2022 Prospectus: He'll be starting at one of the tackle spots, unless there is a total change of direction in camp and they try to move him to guard. Borom has the lower-body strength to play an interior offensive line spot and the hand size and reach to play tackle. He probably doesn't have the quickness to excel as an outside zone run blocker. However, it would be difficult to argue he is not one of the top five Bears offensive linemen.  
Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

BearDigest.com publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Bears full time for various publications, news services and websites over 30 years, including several years collaborating on weekly NFL/Bears columns with Mike Ditka and Walter Payton for the Copley Newspaper Chain.

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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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