The Chicago Bears offensive line wasn’t exactly a weak point in 2017, but it felt like a talented unit underachieved nonetheless. Injuries played their part in matters but the truth is there were a lot of mistakes that hampered their progress from bad snaps to persistent penalties. It was a frustrating sight.
It’s for that reason that new head coach Matt Nagy saw fit to seek out the best possible offensive line coach he could find. His recruitment skills paid off as he lured Harry Hiestand away from Notre Dame. Hiestand is revered as one of the best O-line coaches in football. The Bears should know. He ran their line room during the height of the Lovie Smith era in 2005 and 2006.
Could he bring some of that old magic back? Hopes were certainly high. However, his work was soon lost amidst the media hype of other positions such as the quarterback and of course the resurgent Bears defense. Now that enough time has passed to give things a chance to settle, it felt right to evaluate his work.
The numbers revealed did not disappoint.
New OL coach, Harry Heistsnd new system with Matt Nagy, and healthy OL….great combination so far.
— Mike Golic (@espngolic) October 6, 2018
Bears offensive line improvement has been immense under Harry Hiestand
According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears offensive line allowed a total of 60 pressures on the quarterback through the first four games of 2017. That includes sacks, hits, and hurries. An average of 15 per game. That’s not terrible but it isn’t ideal either. With a clear need to better protect Trubisky this year, Hiestand with his vast experience was brought in to improve on matters.
All things considered? He’s done his job. Through the first four weeks, the Bears have allowed a total of 28 pressures on the quarterback. That’s less than half the number of last season. It was at its best against Tampa Bay when Trubisky was pressured just three times all game due to poor blocking up front. The lone sack he took came from his holding the ball too long.
It’s not like the other three games were against cupcakes either. Green Bay had Clay Matthews. Seattle had Frank Clark. Arizona had Chandler Jones. Those are all good pass rushers and the Bears never let them take over the game. Considering it’s virtually the same starting five from last year save for Eric Kush at left guard? This is a substantial improvement and must be credited to Hiestand’s work.
Some will say this is being overblown because the Bears haven’t run the ball that well. This isn’t entirely true. Jordan Howard isn’t running well, but the team is. To date, they’re averaging 4.2 yards per carry, so they’ve found ways to stay active on the ground. It’s giving Howard more space that remains a problem.
Given the progress made thus far, it might be okay to trust that Hiestand will figure it out. He’s lived up to the billing at this point.