Bears rookie offensive lineman transitioning from tackle to guard

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Zach Thomas focused on growth, not winning RG job originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

There’s already been plenty of change on the Bears offensive line this season, but the one position in particular that still feels up in the air is right guard. Following rookie minicamp, a new name has emerged in the competition for the starting job: Zachary Thomas.

The Bears selected Thomas in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft with designs of developing him as an interior lineman. But Thomas hasn’t played inside since 2018, when he started two games at right guard. Over the past two seasons at SDSU, Thomas worked as a tackle, but the transition back inside during Bears rookie minicamp wasn’t too much of a burden for him.

“I personally think it’s been alright,” Thomas said last weekend. “I mean obviously I had to tighten up my footwork, and certain aspects of my game, but I think I’m adjusting well and I’ll continue to do so.”

Thomas credits the feedback he received from offensive line coach Chris Morgan and assistant OL coach Austin King for the smooth move back inside. He’s gotten great coaching points from each of them that will help him build on his blocking foundation. Moving forward, Thomas also has a clear goal of what he wants to improve in the short term.

“My pass pro lean,” Thomas said. “I’ve gotta get out of my stance and kinda pop my shoulders back, and kind of stay in that posture. I would list that as No. 1 right now.”

Ryan Poles let James Daniels walk in free agency, then struck out on signing replacement Ryan Bates. Over the first voluntary minicamp, former starting center Sam Mustipher got the first crack at the position. But he split reps with Dakota Dozier who started 16 games at left guard for the Vikings in 2020, but was relegated to special teams work in only six games last season. There’s been speculation the Bears could try kicking Larry Borom or Teven Jenkins inside, too, but so far we haven’t seen that. So from the outside looking in, the starting right guard job appears to be up for grabs. But at this point in the offseason program, Thomas isn’t focusing on the opportunity to win a starting job on the line.

“I think right now I’m just trying to learn as much as I can about the game,” Thomas said. “Between college and the NFL it’s been a bit of a leap. We’ll see once the vets get here what happens. But right now I’m just trying to learn as much as I can, and really get going.”

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