Hub Arkush: While far from perfect, Bears O-line trending in right direction
In a sea of bad news for the Bears, there are a few signs that things could be looking up.
First, there was the brilliant second half from Justin Fields in the loss to the Steelers that left many of us dying to get to kickoff Sunday vs. the Ravens to see if he can pick up right where he left off.
And then there is what was near unanimously recognized coming into the season as the Bears greatest need: the offensive line.
While inconsistent at times and still committing too many drive killing penalties, the team's fifth-ranked ground game is as much due to their bodyguards as it is to David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert.
James Daniels is the fifth most penalized lineman in the league according to Pro Football Reference with 6 accepted penalties. But two were ineligible downfield, which is as much on Fields as it is on Daniels and he is the only Bears starter among the top 51 in the league.
On on a positive note, Daniels is also the Bears most devastating run blocker other than the old man outside on the left.
And speaking of Jason Peters, at 39 he is back to well up in the top half of left tackles in the league overall, and one of the best blocking the run.
Cody Whitehair and Sam Mustipher have been above average, and Alex Bars has become one of the more valuable sixth offensive lineman in the league.
And now come the rookies, Larry Borom, who is starting at right tackle, and Teven Jenkins, who returns to practice Wednesday for the first time since minicamp.
Relative to Jenkins, who was drafted in the second round to be the left tackle of the future, offensive line coach Juan Castillo said he will need a couple weeks minimum to begin to get a handle on what the Bears have in Jenkins.
"When you think about it, he hasn't done anything," Castillo said. "We're just going to take him slowly, a little bit at a time, until he gets comfortable and then we'll see in practice."
While both Borom and Jenkins are projected as bookend tackles of the future, the surprise during Jenkins' absence is Borom has shown signs of being as good as if not a better prospect for the left side than his draft mate.
Whether or not Jenkins will start where he left off, as a projected left tackle, Matt Nagy wouldn't say.
"We'll have to really get him in here and see where he's at," Nagy said. "It's been a while since Teven's put the pads on, so we'll start there. As far as the sides and stuff, we'll work through it with him.
"It's just going to be honestly, really, an hour-by-hour, day-by-day process with him. But it's definitely a good thing to have, and we're excited to get him out there."
Don't forget part of that dilemma is right now Peters is on the left side. He is your best offensive lineman, and priority No. 1 continues to be the development of Fields, which has caused some of the struggles the line continues to have.
Either rookie learning on the job on his blind side is far from ideal.
Which leaves a high-class problem. Would the Bears even consider bringing Peters back as a 40-year old?
While it seems unlikely, what he brings in leadership and experience is invaluable, and both rookies could become very good pros and still never reach his level.
Peters hasn't broached the subject yet, but he did tell us just a few weeks ago, "I'm definitely ... I can say right now I'm in tiptop (shape) right now."
Asked if he was happy he came back he said, "I'm definitely glad I came back, and I'm glad I came here. They take care of me here. Everybody's great here. I wish I had come here a little sooner, but I'm enjoying my time now."
If healthy and playing at the level he is now, another year of Peters watching Fields' back and letting the rookies battle it out on the right side next year, with one also learning behind Peters, isn't the worst idea in the world.
Either way, with the interior of the line still young and the arrow definitely pointing up, suddenly the offensive line is looking like a potential strength going forward rather than a glaring weakness.