Bears Encouraged to Give Young Player Starting Opportunity: ‘Why Wait?’

Luke Getsy

Getty will Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy plug OL Alex Leatherwood into the starting lineup?

Alex Leatherwood hasn’t played in a game for the Chicago Bears yet this season, and some are hoping the former first-round offensive lineman gets an opportunity soon.

The Bears claimed Leatherwood off waivers from the Las Vegas Raiders after the he was released shortly before the season started. In doing so, Chicago became responsible for the remaining $5.9 million in guaranteed money remaining on his rookie contract.

Bears insider Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune thinks it would be beneficial for the Bears to give Leatherwood some snaps so they can see what they have in him. Biggs believes either the left tackle or right guard spot would be ideal.

“It makes sense to plug Leatherwood into the lineup at some point to see if the scouting reports the team had on the 2021 first-round draft pick match the player they have,” Biggs wrote on November 4. “Whether he’s used at right tackle — Larry Borom is expected to miss his second game with a concussion — or guard, throw Leatherwood into the fire and see how he does. Why wait until the spring when dissecting line play without full pads is an exercise in futility?”

Leatherwood Has Missed Significant Time Due to Illness

Leatherwood spent a month on the reserve/non-football illness list after contacting mononucleosis, and he returned to practice on October 12. He has yet to appear in a game, and has been inactive multiple times.

Leatherwood played right tackle for the Raiders this preseason, allowing 12 total pressures, two QB hits and 2.0 sacks in 89 pass block snaps, per PFF. As a rookie in 2021, he spent time at both right tackle (257 snaps) and right guard (847 snaps), but he also played left tackle in college at Alabama. Considering Bears rookie Braxton Jones has had the left tackle spot locked down, plugging Leatherwood in at RT seems like Chicago’s most viable option.

“This isn’t a move that needs to be made this week or next — there are plenty of games remaining — but there’s no reason to go through the entire season without allowing Leatherwood a chance to show offensive line coach Chris Morgan what kind of player he is and if he should be in position to compete for a starting job,” Biggs noted. “Why not plug him in as soon as there is full confidence he’s as ready as he will be?”

Where Is Alex Leatherwood Physically?

That’s the key question.

“Getting back into football shape is a real thing,” Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said on October 27 when he was asked if Leatherwood was up to speed. “You’ve got to get these guys back in shape. As far as up to speed, I think they’ve all done a really nice job mentally and will be ready to rock.”

Asked if he would compete at RT if Borom continued to have health issues, the Bears OC wouldn’t say.

“We haven’t considered or we haven’t thought of it that way, yet,” Getsy replied. “As far as a competition, I think we’ve just got to let practice play out and see where everybody is. We didn’t go full speed yesterday, so we didn’t get that opportunity.”

When asked on October 20 if he thought the team was going to need Leatherwood at some point, Bears head coach, Matt Eberflus answered in the affirmative. “Yeah, no doubt,” Eberflus replied. “I have no doubt. I don’t rule out any of that. I would say that we need everybody. Everybody on the roster we need for us to get better. And we’re gonna certainly look at every avenue.”

We’ll see if they wind up looking Leatherwood’s way soon.

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