New Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles has seen tape, and he isn’t impressed.
In an interview with reporters from The Athletic, Chicago’s new GM got candid about what he has seen from the team’s offensive line — and it’s clear significant change is coming based on his assessment.
Poles is a former o-lineman himself, playing college ball at Boston College before signing with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He was eventually released and didn’t make the final roster, but Poles’ experience as a player will be invaluable to the Bears moving forward — particularly the offensive line.
And based on his comments to The Athletic, there are several offensive linemen who could be on the way out, or in for a change in mindset.
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Poles: ‘It Agitates Me to See a Quarterback on the Ground’
“It agitates me to see a quarterback get hit and be on the ground — and I watch the five guys and their body language,” Poles told The Athletic, before going into detail about what irks him the most.
“If I see my guy on the ground, I’m running over there, getting him up, making sure he’s clean, ready to go,” Poles continued. “I don’t know if I saw that enough in the tape that I watched, and that’s critical. And also to protect your guy. If you see something cheap, something dirty, you need to set the tone that that’s not gonna happen, because if you do let it happen once, it’s going to happen over and over and next thing you know, your quarterback is hurt. So that (nastiness) mentality is critical and is something we need to add.”
Quarterback Justin Fields was sacked 36 times and the team led the league in sacks allowed with 58, so the Bears have a lot of work to do — but Poles putting a spotlight on the offensive line here is noteworthy.
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Poles May Have Been Referencing Week 15 Incident
During Chicago’s Week 15 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Fields took a late hit courtesy of a Vikings defender, and Bears rookie offensive lineman Teven Jenkins was the only o-lineman to take issue with it.
Jenkins got in the faces of multiple Minnesota defenders, but Bears right tackle Germain Ifedi pulled the rookie away and got in Jenkins’ face instead of the player who just hit his quarterback illegally out of bounds. Here’s a look at the play:
Multiple ex-Bears, including former center Olin Kreutz, wanted more players to defend Fields the way Jenkins did — and it’s clear Poles wants that, too.
In one of his first moves as acting GM, Poles hired Ian Cunningham, who has worked under Howie Roseman in Philadelphia and Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore, to be Chicago’s first-ever assistant general manager. Cunningham is another former offensive lineman, and together, they should put a renewed emphasis on toughness where the o-line is concerned.
Poles’ Frank Candor About O-Line Impressed During His Interview
“We understand the importance of (offensive linemen) and can evaluate it at a pretty good level,” Poles said about himself and Cunningham in his interview with The Athletic. “That doesn’t mean we’ll get them all right, but I think we see it the right way. The other thing is sitting down and talking to them and understanding their mentality to find out things like that, because that’s telling. How you present yourself, how you play, we’ll piece that together to find out the truth about players.”
Considering there were multiple moments where Fields was not helped up from the ground or protected in general, there could be several new faces on Chicago’s o-line next season.
According to insider Jeff Hughes of Da Bears Blog, it was Poles, blunt assessment of Chicago’s offensive line that impressed team chairman George McCaskey and company during his interview.
“Ryan Poles won fans during his interview with his honesty about this Bears roster. He was not kind, especially about the OL. He’s going to attack this thing,” Hughes tweeted on February 1.
Taking into account Ifedi’s previous actions, he very likely won’t be re-signed, and veterans James Daniels, who is a free agent and Cody Whitehair, who is not, could be in for position switches or walking papers depending on what Poles and Cunningham have planned. Buckle up, Bears fans. It’s about to start getting eventful.
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The problem has been with the league overall. Officials are quick to throw a 15 yard for standing up for your guy, unless your guy is named Brady or Rogers. The O line is damned if they do, damned if they don’t. I agree with the getting your guy back up, but getting in the D’s face just draws too many penalties and then your offense is trying to play behind the chains. Better to deliver the message the next time you line up. Hit and pancake his arse so hard he forgets his own number and let him know more is coming for taking shots at your guy. Exercise your will with violent aggressiveness, but keep it in the rules. After all, the best revenge is to demoralize the other team by pounding them into submission where you break their will. Then take the W and get ready for the next one.