By: Brennen McMann
All through the successful prime years of Jay Cutler and Matt Forte there was always that one Kryptonite that held them back…the Offensive line. But more specifically the LT position. Jay Cutler had to work through the likes of Chris Williams, J’marcus Webb and Jermon Bushrod. Bushrod was far and away the best player out of that group and that’s not saying much. To keep it simple, the OL was a disaster. The Bears never made a big concentrated effort to fix the line and upgrade it. Who knows what could have been with some of the most talented Bears teams in the late 2000’s, 2010, 2011 & 2012.
Then came along a 7th round rookie from Boise State by the name of Charles Leno Jr. No one thought much of the move besides it being a depth move and bringing another guy to training camp, including myself. After struggling mightily in the preseason at right tackle it was almost certain that he wouldn’t make the roster or at most be a lifelong back up. But Leno had bigger and better dreams!
As a rookie in 2014, Leno only played in 6 games and started 1. He was sitting behind Bushrod at the time, But that was very short lived. In the third game of the 2015 season Bushrod went out with an injury and in came the second year player, Charles Leno JR.
Since then, Leno has not missed a single game, playing the remaining 13 games as well as the next 32 games over the next 2 years. Of course Leno was going to have growing pains as a young player drafted in the 7th round, but his play has significantly improved over the years.
Last August, Ryan Pace rewarded Charles Leno with a four-year $38 million contract extension with incentives. This deal was an absolute steal for the Bears. Leno has been improving each and every year by a significant amount. In 2015 Leno let up 42 pressures and 6 sacks. In 2016, he let up 36 pressures and 4 sacks and last season was 24 pressures with 5 sacks. His improvement in the pass and the run game has been rewarding to Bears fans.
This is a very impressive stat line. It shows that Leno is improving and honing his skills each offseason and working on honing his skills. Now, he gets to work with new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. Hiestand gets the absolute best out of his players and the players love him. He could be help Leno break into the category of elite left tackles in the NFL. Then Leno would truly be an unsung hero.