How Dan Feeney affects Bears' ‘fluid' center, left guard competition originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Teven Jenkins will miss the first four games of the regular season, putting the Bears offensive line in flux. After entering the year with a clear top five– Braxton Jones, Jenkins, Cody Whitehair, Nate Davis and Darnell Wright– the situation has become a bit cloudier once more. Jones, Davis and Wright are all set to go, but questions have emerged about who will play left guard and who will play center.
As things stand, Lucas Patrick figures to be the team’s starting center and Whitehair appears destined to slide back to left guard where he played last year, but the team isn’t ready to call off the competition just yet.
“It’s fluid right now,” GM Ryan Poles said on Wednesday. “By the time we get into next week, I’m sure we’ll have that thing solidified.”
One of the reasons the picture isn’t crystal clear yet is that a new competitor has entered the mix. On Tuesday the Bears acquired Dan Feeney from the Dolphins in exchange for a 2024 sixth-round pick, and Feeney has significant starting experience at both center and guard.
“The position flex is obviously something that we coveted there to be an inside piece there for us in games, and the experience,” said head coach Matt Eberflus. “You’ve got tape, you’ve seen him play, you know what he can do up at this level.”
For what it’s worth, Feeney said he has no preference between playing guard and center.
“I think I can play all three at a high level, so being able to swing all three inside I think’s good. It helps to be versatile for this team. That’s what I’m gonna try and do.”
It might be tough for Feeney to push for a starting job with Week 1 less than two weeks away, but if Patrick struggles at center like he struggled at guard last year, it's possible Feeney cracks the lineup sooner rather than later.
The Chargers selected Feeney in the third round of the 2017 season and he earned a starting job by Week 8 in his rookie season. That started a streak of 57 consecutive starts with the Chargers. He spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons with the Jets where he played in all 33 games, but only started seven.
“Bounced around from a couple of teams,” Feeney said. “Just how the NFL works unfortunately, but I think I'm the same player. Still got the same capabilities and abilities to do things.”
Offensive line is one unit where consistency is key. All five players need to work in unison to ensure proper blocking in the run game and satisfactory protection for Justin Fields. With the recent shakeups, the Bears will need to fast track that chemistry up front. However, instead of worrying about rushing to get things right for Week 1, the Bears are opting to look at the bright side of the situation.
“What’s great is that if something happens during a game, you can slide in and move out and vice versa,” Eberflus said. “That’s what the injury situation in training camp afforded us to do, and we feel very comfortable about that. Now you don’t like it during the time—you’re like ‘Oh my gosh, we don’t have the starters in there, what’s going on, this and that.’ But the whole time you’re getting experience. Now during the course of the year when you have to do that you’re going to feel pretty comfortable doing that.”