Green Bay Packers: Ranking the NFC North offensive lines

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Dec 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears offensive tackle Kyle Long (75), defensive end Will Sutton (93) and Chicago Bears guard Matt Slauson (68) take the field before the game against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears offensive tackle Kyle Long (75), defensive end Will Sutton (93) and Chicago Bears guard Matt Slauson (68) take the field before the game against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

3) CHICAGO BEARS: GM Ryan Pace provided this Bears squad with a much-needed makeover up front starting with the additions of right tackle Bobby Massie and second-round pick Cody Whitehair, both of whom are expected to have a major impact on an offense in search of a new identity.

Fielding a more athletic offense ranks high on new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggans’ priority list. Both he and offensive line coach Dave Magazu want to see their linemen show the ability to consistently get to the second level as they will look to implement zone-blocking concepts.

This explains why Chicago parted ways with eighth-year interior lineman Matt Slauson, who is known as more of a phone-booth player that lacks the movement skills that the coaching is looking for.

Whitehair brings the kind of quickness and body control that should allow him to clear out linebackers at the second level. The rookie also offers the vision and awareness to read blitzes on running and passing plays.

Whether he’s a center or guard in the NFL will partially depend upon the continued development of last year’s starting center Hroniss Grasu. The one-time Oregon Duck spent most of his rookie campaign bulking up for the NFL until he was called into action following a leg injury to current free agent Will Montgomery.

To the surprise of no one, Grasu displayed some difficulties engaging his opponents at the point of attack. This summer will be his opportunity to put his leverage and technique skills to good use and prove that he is indeed strong enough to hang with NFL defenders.

Either way, the team is determined to get quality play out of their center and have also added veteran journeymen Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen to the mix.

Ramirez might be better known to some as the one who sailed the ball over Peyton Manning’s head at the start of Super Bowl XLVIII as a member of the Denver Broncos. That aside, he’s revered around the league as a powerful run blocker that can line up at guard or center.

Larsen is a similarly versatile blocker who is quick off the ball, but has struggled in the running game due to a tendency to lunge and lose leverage.

Between Grasu, Larsen, Ramirez and Whitehair, the Bears should be able to find a suitable combo at left guard and center.

The right guard position, manned by Kyle Long, is an area of strength. The 27-year-old should be applauded for being a team-first professional in his willingness to move to right tackle last season. It took him a good month to get settled as an edge protector, but Long is clearly better suited to take on adversaries as an inside player.

At right guard, the three-time Pro Bowler won’t feel the need to jump the gun when coming out of his stance against athletic speed rushers who can bend the corner. His record speaks for itself as an interior blocker…just ask Gerald McCoy and Ndamakong Suh.

Moving in at right tackle is the aforementioned Massie, who has been lauded by Long himself as being a “country strong” lineman. If that assessment refers to his run blocking, then Long is spot on in his commentary.

Massie’s pass protection, however, hasn’t always been up to par. In his days as an Arizona Cardinal, the young veteran wasn’t always a quick study when it came to executing his assignments in Bruce Arians’ offense, which caused Massie to occasionally lose his battles against speed rushers.

The left end will feature 2014 seventh-round pick Charles Leno at tackle, who takes over for the fading Jermon Bushrod, who will be bringing his talents to South Beach as a member of the Miami Dolphins. Leno only has one start and six appearances on his ledger last season, but the coaching staff seems to like his length (34 3/8-inch arms) and his thunderous punch off the snap.

Doubts were cast about the Boise State product prior to him turning pro two years ago due to his waist-bending tendencies as a high-cut athlete whose legs are substantially longer than his upper body.

Tayo Fabuluje is another young tackle who will probably vie for a swing-tackle position following a disappointing first year that saw him show up out of shape and then get suspended for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Nick Becton, Jason Weaver and Martin Wallace will all be competing for backup jobs. Of the three, Becton seems to have a leg up given his lateral agility along with the fact that he finished the 2015 season on Chicago’s roster.

While John Fox’s Bears seem to have what it takes to put a formidable set of inside blockers on the field, the tackle spots are a bit iffy going into training camp. Leno and Massie will have a lot on their shoulders as far as improving Chicago’s ability to safeguard Jay Cutler. Don’t be shocked to see Long move back to one of those spots at some point.

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