There is not, and cannot be, a better expert on what the Bears do offensively than Tom Thayer.
The 1985 offensive line starter at right guard has always had his hand on the pulse of the line as an analyst alongside radio’s Jeff Joniak for the WBBM broadcasts and spends a fair amount of time each year in training camp, if not offseason practices.
So when Thayer says the offensive line the Bears showed in OTAs and minicamps might not be the line they start with in training camp or take in the regular season, it carries a lot more impact than some guy who sitting in his basement regurgitating into cyberspace what he read on Pro Football Talk.
Thayer thinks the Bears won’t line up former Green Bay shortstop Lucas Patrick under center like they’ve done all offseason. Instead, he sees them doing what former Bears center Olin Kreutz has been insisting via social media will happen. Hosting Wednesday mornings on WSCR-AM 670 sideline and beat reporter Mark Groth, Thayer said he sees the Bears returning Sam Mustifer to center and starting Patrick at right guard in training camp.
His reason is simple: Mustifer has extensive experience as a center, Patrick has experience as a right guard with Green Bay, although he also played center.
“You’d have experience at center if you had Mustifer in there, if you had Lucas at right guard and Cody (White Hair) at left guard,” Thayer told Grote. “Now you’re talking about three players who have already proven they can play at a very high level here.”
Whether Mustipher has proven he has played at a high level is open to debate. He had relatively low blocking grades on Pro Football Focus, but not much lower than the grade Patrick had last year with Green Bay while playing center with a 57.5 grade and Mustifer 36th with a 51.8.
Thayer bases his thoughts on several things, including his own experience. He pointed out how he came from the USFL to the Bears in 1985 and line coach Dick Stanfel used him in the alien backup center position because they didn’t have a reliable backup to Jay Hilgenberg. But he asked to get a chance to play at right guard, where he was more comfortable, then went out, excelled and stayed there.
“So I went out against the Buffalo Bills the last preseason game and I played right guard and I showed more confidence, more strength and more confidence as a guard than as a center. I wasn’t good (at center),” Thayer said.
The result was that the Bears kept Thayer at guard and he was a key part of their success in winning the Super Bowl.
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-Former Bears keeper Tom Thayer on WSCR AM-670
“For me, I’m glad Lucas can play multiple positions on the offensive line, but I believe Sam Mustifer is a center,” Thayer said. “I think it’s the position he was born and bred to play.
“Do you want to get the best out of that offensive line, because the first thing Ryan Pace did was ask these guys to lose weight, and I think Sam Mustifer lost weight, he was in better shape, he was faster than the ball, he’s already proven that maybe he can hold that position.”
The other thing Thayer did was tie up the guard/center in line of scrimmage issues. Basically, he thinks that with two second-year tackles in Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom and another inexperienced option in rookie Braxton Jones, the Bears need to have the inside three positions as solid and as solid as possible to keep possible problems on the outside. Having three experienced players at the guard-to-guard position is much more stable than starting Mustifer at right guard, where he never played in the NFL or in college.
The Bears had Jones practice with left-handed starters over the past two weeks of offseason work, but Thayer believes it should be Borrom in left. It sounded like he thinks the Bears are actually leaning toward Jones at left tackle, and it’s not just an experiment in OTAs and minicamp.
“For me, I’ve always thought of Borom as a left tackle and then Teven Jenkins at right tackle,” Thayer said. “If Teven Jenkins can’t play right tackle, move him to right guard and he’s going to have to prove to me that he can or can’t play at that level.
“But I still believe Larry Borom is their best option at left tackle right now, but they seem to think differently.”
It’s hard to blame Thayer for thinking about Jones. He thinks it would be fantastic if Jones had established that he could actually start and be effective at left tackle as a rookie, but it seems unlikely that he would handle the first assignment. This might be a move they should explore later once Jones’ feet are wet in the NFL.
“There’s a huge responsibility shouldering a fifth-round draft pick, coming in and playing left tackle in the NFL as a Week 1 rookie against Nick Bosa,” Thayer said.
The opener is a home game and that would help a young man to cope, but Thayer called the Bosa-Jones match-up “…a terrible thought”.
“I’m disappointed they didn’t go all out to make Larry Borom the left tackle because he’s got size, he’s got the legs, he’s got the punch and he showed that last year in the Seattle game,” Thayer told Grote. “They were going to start Teven Jenkins at left. After the third play, Teven Jenkins left the game, Larry Borrom was brought in at left tackle and played the rest of the game and played well. So, for me, I would like to continue the development process of Larry Borom.”
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