Ifedi locking down right guard could be key to improved run game
Coming into this offseason upgrading the offensive line was one of the Bears' greatest needs, and simply switching from Harry Hiestand to Juan Castillo as the O-line coach isn't going to fix much by itself.
The only veteran, known quantity they've added is Germain Ifedi, a first-round pick by Seattle four years ago who's been mediocre and piled up enough penalties that the Seahawks let him go.
And that's a Seattle team that still has real issues of its own up front.
I met Ifedi for the first time a couple of weeks ago. He is an extremely bright and well-spoken young man and a hard guy not to be impressed by.
I have been consistent in my belief the Bears' biggest issue up front is at left tackle.
Ifedi split his time in Seattle between tackle and guard, was much better at guard and based on the tape is unlikely to offer much competition for Charles Leno. But, neither Rashaad Coward nor Alex Bars remotely resemble a finished NFL guard, and Ifedi confirmed as we've expected he's penciled in at guard for the Bears right now.
I asked him whether he prefers tackle or guard.
"Coming up until college, I played guard my entire career. I played guard my first two years at college but there was a need at tackle and I just kind of stuck out there the last two years of college.
"Same in the league. Played guard and then played tackle the last few years.
"I've always considered myself an inside guy, a road-grater type, but I've always accepted the challenge that came with playing tackle also.
"Whichever one is needed at the time, there is no issue in doing either one. It's just doing your technique and doing what you know to be natural -- you play in space or you play in the phone booth at guard."
His answer gave me some comfort as from the tape I've watched he is clearly more of a natural body-type and athlete for guard, and while he probably played more tackle overall in Seattle he has performed much better inside.
It was also extremely interesting hearing how he's been preparing for his Bears debut, working out with Atlanta left tackle Jake Matthews and his Hall of Fame dad, Bruce.
Ifedi, Jake and his brother, Mike, went to Texas A&M together and live near each other in Houston.
"One offseason I hit him up and we got started and we never stopped.
"(With) Bruce, a guy that played 21 years, he's seen so much. "He teaches us how to approach the game every day and the consistent grind.
"Jake and I both want to work. We're not about the flash and all that stuff."
What I think impressed me most about Ifedi was his self-evaluation of where he's been so far.
"There's a lot out there ... (that I) didn't live up to expectations in Seattle. I started 65 games in four years. I think a lot of teams will take that in a first-round pick, no matter how many penalties there were.
"You continue to grow, you continue to get better. And if you know you're invested in every day, you know you're on the right track and you're doing the right thing for yourself and for your teammates and for your career going forward."
While left tackle is a problem for the Bears the biggest shortcoming in the offense has been the run game and a polished "road grating" right guard could be a significant addition.
If Ifedi can be who he thinks he can, general manager Ryan Pace can check off one more important item from his to-do list.