The Chicago Bears lost a large piece of the offensive line puzzle when Will Montgomery was placed on IR with a broken leg. Montgomery is a 10-year NFL veteran with previous experience in coordinator Adam Gase's offense.
With no other options, the Bears turned to third-round rookie Hroniss Grasu to fill Montgomery's shoes. Grasu struggled in the preseason and had been a healthy scratch through the club's first four contests, which caused much trepidation among Bears faithful, as many assumed those struggles would carry over to the regular season. Yet, while he's had some growing pains, he's been better than expected.
Is Grasu the club's center of the future? With only two starts under his belt, it's far too early to anoint Grasu the team's long-term starter, but the film shoes a player with the potential to man the pivot for many years to come.
We'll start with one of his worst snaps of the past two weeks. On this play, the Chiefs will use a double stunt, crossing the two interior defenders, while also crossing the weak-side defensive end and the middle linebacker blitzing the B gap.
As the play develops, three defenders begin converging on Grasu.
The two stunts are picked up on the outside but LG Matt Slauson gets crossed up, leaving Grasu one-on-one with the defensive end, with the linebacker trailing.
The defensive end rips past Grasu, while the linebacker cleans up the play, with both defenders corralling Jay Cutler for the sack.
Analysis: This play was as much the fault of Slauson as it was Grasu, as Slauson was mixed up by the cross stunt and could not recover. Grasu does a good job of standing his ground with players crossing in front of him and was in position to make the block. Yet he lost leverage right away and the defender drove right through him and into the backfield.
This is Matt Forte on a zone run right. Grasu will double the nose at the snap and then quickly peel off to the linebacker.
The trap play creates a nice lane for Forte, but Grasu cannot secure the defender at the second level. Notice the linebacker pushing off and easily disengaging from the block.
The linebacker takes Forte down after a minimal gain.
Analysis: Grasu has very good quickness and he reaches the second level in a heartbeat. Yet he sometimes struggles to sustain blocks in space, which we see here.
Forte will run A gap right on the play. Grasu will have a single block on the defensive tackle.
Grasu is immediately driven two yards into the backfield.
The defender sheds the block and takes down Forte at the line of scrimmage.
Analysis: Here is the lack of strength about which everyone has worried. Grasu is put on his heels at contact and cannot recover. The defender then easily shoves Grasu aside and wraps up the ball carrier. This is an area in which Grasu must learn to better utilize leverage and angle technique.
This is a bubble screen left in which Grasu, Slauson and LT Charle Leno will clear to the left flat to block out in front of WR Eddie Royal.
Grasu (yellow), Slauson and Leno take off to the second level. Grasu's job here is to cross the face of the outside linebacker (55) and seal him inside.
Grasu has the speed to get in front of the linebacker. Royal will cut inside of a nice kickout block from Leno.
Grasu holds the block and stays between Royal and the defender. Leno finishes the wide block, while Slauson is lining up the safety.
The linebacker has no choice but to cut inside of Grasu, and ends up flat on his face as Royal heads for open space.
Analysis: This is my favorite snap from Grasu from the past two games. He's quick to the second level and has the speed to outrace the linebacker playside. Grasu then has the balance and awareness to seal the defender inside, forcing the linebacker to cut under the play, thus giving Royal the running room he needs for a big gain. Grasu was drafted because of his overall athleticism and his prowess at the second level, both of which are on display on this snap.
This is RB Jeremy Langford's touchdown run from the 1-yard line. Notice the inverted wishbone formation, using DT Mitch Unrein (purple) as one of the up-backs. Unrein and Forte will swing right, creating a decoy for the right side of the defense. On the play, Slauson (red) and Grasu (yellow) must lock up the two most interior defenders.
Slauson and Grasu get good push off the ball.
Langford hits the pile with pad level so low, he's nearly parallel to the ground. The push up front by Grasu and Slauson is sufficient, resulting in the goal-line score.
Analysis: This is a throwback formation in which Gase uses a defensive tackle as a lead blocker. Count me in. Grasu shows good power on this play and the Bears pound in the easy score. Plays like these should be goal-line staples for the Bears offense going forward.
On this snap, Grasu and RT Kyle Long will pull right on the stretch run right. RG Vladimir Ducasse and LT Charles Leno are tasked with locking up the linebackers.
Forte is working up to full speed and Grasu is still out in front. That's great speed from a center. Leno has already missed his block on the back side, while Ducasse is making contact with the other linebacker.
Grasu gets a solid kickout block, giving Forte a nice lane behind him. Unfortunately for the Bears, both Leno and Ducasse miss their blocks and the play goes for no gain.
Analysis: Here again we see Grasu's ability to move. He gets down the line in a hurry, which allows Forte to keep a good pace and doesn't force him to wait for the block. Grasu lines up and executes a quality kick-out block. Getting Grasu on the move is a great way to take full advantage of his athletic skill-set.