Between 1991-2014, the Chicago Bears selected an offensive lineman in the first or second round of the NFL draft just seven times.
2014- G Kyle Long
2011- T Gabe Carimi
2008- T Chris Williams
2002- T Marc Columbo
1994- T Marcus Spears
1992- T Troy Auzenne
1991- T Stan Thomas
Outside of Kyle Long, Chicago's recent track record of selecting early round offensive lineman has been filled with busts and missed opportunities. In fact, of those seven O-lineman, only Long lasted beyond his rookie contract.
The constant misses up front have hampered Bears offenses for more than two decades. Those wasted draft picks are one of the main reasons the Bears have made the playoffs just six times since 1991.
With Long and current second-round rookie Cody Whitehair, that trend of wasting high draft picks on O-lineman has been curbed. Long is a three-time Pro Bowler and many believe Whitehair was a Pro Bowl snub his first year in the league.
Whitehair doesn't play a high-profile position but he's quietly been the most dependable offensive lineman for the Bears this season.
I broke down All-22 game film of Whitehair from the past two contests. Here's what I found:
This is an A-gap run by RB Jordan Howard. Whitehair has a single block against the Washington nose tackle.
Whitehair immediately shifts his body, angling the defender away from the hole. His body positioning in this frame is perfect, demonstrating ideal balance and awareness.
Howard hits the hole and makes the safety miss. Whitehair has completely turned the defensive lineman out of the hole, which creates a nice cutback lane for Howard.
Howard turns the corner for a big gain, with Whitehair's man looking on helplessly.
This is a pitch left to Howard. Whitehair is again manned up on the nose tackle.
As Howard receives the pitch, Whitehair has already gained outside leverage on the defender, using his quickness to work down the line of scrimmage.
Whitehair seals the defensive lineman inside, which allows Howard to turn the corner for a big gain.
On our third play, Whitehair and LG Josh Sitton will double team Redskins DL Cullen Jenkins at the snap.
Sitton peels off for the linebacker. At the same time, Whitehair shifts his hips and seals Jenkins to the outside, giving Howard an interior rush lane.
This is a sweep right. At the snap, Whitehair puts a club into the defensive lineman's chest but will soon clear to the second level for LB Will Compton. Notice both players begin the play on the right hash.
Six yards to the right of the hash, Whitehair has beaten Compton to the point of attack. Whitehair uses a "bear hug" technique to halt Compton's sideline momentum.
Whitehair works his body around Compton's outside shoulder, sealing the linebacker inside and creating a wide second-level running lane for Howard.
This is a pitch play right to Howard. Whitehair has a single block against Packers DL Letroy Guion.
Whitehair slides quickly down the line and gains immediate leverage.
Guion plants his outside foot and uses his inside arm to push Whitehair to the outside. Whitehair is unable to stop his momentum and loses contact with the defender.
Guion swallows up Howard, while Whitehair watches helplessly. On this snap, Guion does a good job of using Whitehair's elite movement ability against him.
This snap is a screen to Howard in the right flat. As QB Matt Barkley releases the pass, we see Whitehair racing to the second level to cut off S Morgan Burnett's angle of attack.
Whitehair uses his speed to beat Burnett to the edge, setting him up for the cut-back seal block.
Whitehair's momentum once again comes back to bite him, as he's unable to stop Burnett from cutting underneath.
Whitehair can't sustain the block and Burnett takes down Howard.
On our final snap, Whitehair and RG Ted Larsen double team Jenkins at the snap. Whitehair will then clear to the second level for LB Mason Foster.
Whitehair sticks on the double team until he's in perfect position to lock up the linebacker.
Foster shifts his weight outside and uses his outside arm to toss Whitehair aside. Whitehair loses his balance and bounces off the block.
Whitehair ends with two armfuls of air as Foster makes the tackle.
Bears GM Ryan Pace traded back twice in the second round of this year's draft before selecting Whitehair out of Kansas State. Pace acquired two extra draft picks that round and still landed one of the best offensive linemen in this year's rookie class.
On film, Whitehair demonstrates solid technique and a complete understanding of body positioning and leverage. He's very effective in a phone booth, where he can effortlessly swing his hips and seal interior defenders.
That short-area mobility combined with his strength makes Whitehair a major weapon for Chicago's rushing attack. Against the Redskins, Howard averaged 6.0 yards per carry running in the A gaps.
Whitehair is at his best on stretch plays and second-level blocks due to his high level of athleticism. Even at 6-4, 309, he can outrace linebackers and safeties. That elite movement ability can be used against him, as we saw on a handful of snaps in this piece, but in the long run, that type of athleticism will boost Chicago's run game for years to come.
The film of Whitehair shows a very impressive rookie, yet his performance this season is even more remarkable when you consider he had never before played center. Whitehair was a guard and tackle at KSU, starting at left tackle his final two years in Manhattan. Center was completely foreign to him.
Looking toward the future, the interior of Chicago's offensive line could be a team strength. The club used a third-round pick in last year's draft on Hroniss Grasu, who was coming into his own before breaking his leg in training camp. If Grasu reaches his ceiling, working alongside long-term stalwarts like Long and Whitehair, the Bears run game, led by the dynamic skill set of Howard, could develop into one of the league's most potent units.null