(670 The Score) Seeking solutions for their struggling offensive line, the Bears reshuffled once again Sunday.
The Bears started Sam Mustipher at center after shifting Cody Whitehair from that spot to left guard. Germain Ifedi slid from right guard to replace Rashaad Coward at right tackle, a more familiar position for Ifedi. Alex Bars stepped into Ifedi's previous place at right guard. Charles Leno Jr. was the lone Bears offensive lineman remaining in his starting spot as he played left tackle like usual.
Though coach Matt Nagy was frustrated with most of the Bears' roster in their 41-25 loss to the Packers, he was pleased with the offensive line.
"Our offensive line played their ass off (Sunday)," Nagy said. "I thought they did a good job of fighting. They handled that front four pretty well. They established the run game."
The Bears' offensive struggles have started up front with a line that has let them down in both the running and passing games for most of the season. Chicago ranks 29th in scoring and 31st in yardage in the NFL. The Bears are also last in the NFL in averaging 82.2 yards per game on the ground.
The Bears have have been tested on their offensive line this season. Left guard James Daniels suffered a season-ending pectoral tear in early October. Right tackle Bobby Massie suffered a knee injury in early November. Whitehair had a calf injury before testing positive for COVID-19, which wiped out part of the Bears' depth ahead of a Nov. 8 game.
Mustipher made his first career start on Nov. 1 but suffered a knee injury, which forced Bars into his first career start a week later -- at center, a position he had never worked at in any level of football.
The veteran Massie remains on injured reserve and is eligible to return, but it's not clear when that could occur.
For now, the Bears hope they've created a more stable offensive line. David Montgomery broke the century mark for the first time this season as he rushed 11 times for 103 yards Sunday, including a 57-yard run in the first quarter. The protection held up better with Mitchell Trubisky under center than it had with Nick Foles starting previously.
An undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame in 2019, Mustipher added size this past offseason and is playing stronger at 320 pounds. That's only part of why the Bears like him.
"He’s done all the extra work," Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo said. "He’s got a big heart, very smart, very competitive. You know, guys like that, sometimes all they need is an opportunity. That’s what he has, and so far he’s making the best of it. I think he’s good for the group."
Bars also joined the Bears as an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame in 2019. He started parts of four seasons with the Fighting Irish, including 18 games alongside Mustipher while playing right guard. The familiarity between Mustipher and Bars helped the Bears create stability up front with the two voids on their line.
While the Bears will surely address their line this offseason, they're hoping this new-look group offers their offense a better chance for now.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.