Bears GM Ryan Poles Has Significant Warning for His New Players

Teven Jenkins

Getty Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins readies to block against the Minnesota Vikings.

Ryan Poles is ready to transform the offensive line of the Chicago Bears — and the entire roster — in more ways than one.

The team’s new general manager spoke with the media at the NFL scouting combine, and had some revealing things to say about what members of his squad can expect. Poles played offensive line at Boston College for four years, where he blocked for current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan before landing with the Bears as an undrafted free agent for a brief period of time in 2008.

Now, one of his primary goals is transforming the team’s offensive line while also taking strength and conditioning to the next level. The Bears have added Jim Arthur, who has over 20 years of experience working in the NFL, as their new head strength and conditioning coach. A disciple of well-respected strength coach Rusty Jones, Arthur was with the Bears from 2005-15, and held the same role from 2008-14.

Based on what Poles said at the combine, Arthur is going to be quite busy this coming season.

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Poles: ‘We’ve Gotta Change Body Types’

PFF ranked the Bears’ O-line 22nd out of 32 teams last season. The player with the highest grade was left tackle Jason Peters, who turned 40 in April. Peters, along with center Sam Mustipher and right tackle Germain Ifedi, will likely be gone next season. Right guard James Daniels is a free agent, and his future remains a question mark, while left guard Cody Whitehair risks being a salary cap casualty entering his seventh season. It’s safe to say the offensive line is going to look quite different for Chicago in 2022.

“We’re going to change it up a little bit just in terms of the style,” Poles said about the offensive line on March 1. “A lot of those guys — and the message has been clear — we’ve gotta change body types a little bit. We’ve gotta get lighter, we’ve gotta get quicker. Through that, I think there’s some young talent that just needs to be pressed. That’s part of our job is to create competition and bring the best out of them. We’ll do that and we’ll see if the cream rises to the top.”

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Body Fat Will Be Big for Bears’ Players Moving Forward

The Bears’ O-line averaged 326.8 pounds in 2021, with Whitehair (6’4″, 310 pounds) the lightest of the bunch. According to Poles, body fat and fitness are about to become a major focal point.

“We’re gonna take body fat and weight really, really, really seriously — and it’s going to be held to a certain standard,” Poles said. “Because we know if we get guys to follow that, and once they see that, they’re gonna perform better, they’re gonna play better for us as a team, and they’re gonna be more successful as an individual. And eventually, we hope, then you take your hands off and the accountability comes within the locker room. I think that’s big with the players.”

A few of the team’s younger O-linemen are going to have some work to do. 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins told The Draft Network’s Justin Melo just before the draft he was “down to 19.5% body fat,” and that likely hasn’t changed much, as Jenkins suffered a back injury and missed a significant portion of the season as a result. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Jenkins gave up 11 pressures and was called for seven penalties on 160 snaps, so he’ll need to work on multiple areas of his game while also replacing some fat with muscle.

Larry Borom will be another lineman to watch. A fifth-round pick out of Missouri in 2021, the 6-foot-6, 332-pound Borom allowed 32 pressures in 546 snaps last year, and getting lighter and quicker will only help his game.

This standard isn’t just being set for the team’s offensive linemen, either. As former Bears scout Greg Gabriel noted, teams tend to get the best results from players with very low body fat. According to Gabriel, “each player will have an assigned body fat” percentage, so everyone on the roster, from Khalil Mack to Justin Fields, had better be ready to work.

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