New Chicago Bears offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Michael Schofield met with the media for the first time following the team’s first training camp practice of the year. Both players were signed within the last week to potentially strengthen the offensive line. It was easily the position group with the most questions surrounding it.
Those have not completely gone by the wayside, for what it’s worth. But Reiff and Schofield both demonstrated one of the many ways they can and will help this team in the 2022-23 season.
Reiff, Schofield could have big impact on the Bears’ other offensive linemen
Adults in the Room
Aside from Cody Whitehair at right guard, the Bears projected starting offensive line features no players with more than one year of starting experience including last year’s starter at center, Sam Mustipher, who is battling for the starting right guard position. It is a group that is in flux and has been ranked accordingly.
Pro Football Focus projects it to be the 31st-ranked unit in the league next season which did not bode well for second-year quarterback Justin Fields’ prospects.
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Right away, Reiff – who signed a one-year deal worth up to $13 million – ran drills with the first team. Heading into his 11th NFL season, I asked Reiff if he felt as though his experience in the league gave him a leg up in the competition at left tackle. That is his preferred position.
His answer showed just how much a veteran presence can mean.
“I’m here to help anybody. I’m an open book. We’re just trying to win games, whatever it takes. We’ve got a lot of young talented guys in the room and whatever I can do to help them, I’m on board with it.”
That may be where Rieff’s greatest and most lasting impact shows up, in his ability to help mold at least one out of the trio of Larry Borom, Braxton Jones, and Teven Jenkins. Jenkins, a second-round pick last season, was not at practice on Thursday. He was projected to be the starter coming in. But under the new regime, he has to earn it like everyone else.
Borom and Jones manned the tackle spots during OTAs. If even one of them turns into a quality starter, the Bears will be that much better off. That is both now for Fields and in the long run for the franchise.
A Bit of a Homecoming
Schofield is from the Chicago area and said that he grew up a “big” Bears fan. He also made it clear that he just wants to impact winning positively, however that may be.
“That’s what training camp’s for. Try to go out there and do your best every single day. Try to help the young guys along. Do what you can do to be a good teammate and just see what happens at the end of camp.”
Schofield called the opportunity with the Bears a “dream come true”.
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Head coach Matt Eberflus could very well declare two of Borom, Jenkins, or Jones as the starters at tackle, and say that Mustipher will man right guard. That does not mean that Reiff or Schofield won’t be making an impact that will be seen on the field in those very same players.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said as much during his media availability after Day 2, adding that Reiff has already been doing that when Getsy was asked what kind of player they were getting.
That’s why the Bears deciding to act and improve their front five is not inconsequential.
They need to know what they have in Fields. His weapons may not be what most hoped for right now. But, if he can show that he can elevate the talent around him if given time, everyone from the franchise to fans will be very happy.