One position where Bears GM Ryan Pace has left too much to chance

Backup tackles on the Bears roster are loaded with inexperience or have failed to impress in past efforts.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace bolstered depth at every position this offseason except quarterback.

Yet, the Bears approach training camp still with a huge question about their depth at one particular spot and it's a place where Pace will need to keep his eye out for players cut during preseason or just before the regular season.

At offensive tackle, the Bears are relying entirely on inexperience or questionable veteran help behind starters Bobby Massie and Charles Leno Jr.

Following the startling switch of positions this offseason to tight end by former tackle Bradley Sowell, Rashaad Coward became the swing tackle.

Coward, a former offensive lineman, got into one game in 2017 against the Bengals on defense, but hasn't played in an NFL game on offense.

Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand trusts the work they've put into developing Coward the past year, yet it's a risk placing the blind side of the quarterback in the hands of an undrafted free agent who switched positions and has no regular-season experience.

Pace did sign veteran tackles who have played on both sides of the line in the past but with marginal results.

TJ Clemmings missed the last eight games last season for Oakland with a knee injury and finished 2017 on injured reserve in Washington with an ankle injury. He hadn't exactly established a career course toward Canton prior to those two years. As a rookie fourth-round draft pick with the Vikings in 2015, Clemmings allowed eight sacks when pressed into service due to an injury to Phil Loadholt. It didn't get much better the next season and the Vikings gave up on him in 2017.

Former Lions, Rams and Saints tackle Cornelius Lucas has been able to start only eight times in 37 career games since 2014 and has started only twice and played in only seven games since 2015. At 6-foot-9, 328, he's better as a right tackle and struggled at times on both sides against speed rushers.

Beyond those three, the Bears would be left with undrafted rookies, most of whom have been slated to play guard Joe Lowery, Notre Dame's Alex Bars, Southern Utah's Marquez Tucker and former Packer-Viking lineman McCray are all likely to be guards. But Bars and Lowery can play tackle. Using them there would require letting them get plenty of reps at the position at training camp. Lowery is 6-7, 310 and ideal size for a left tackle, although he'd need to get a bit heavier and stronger. In the case of each of those players, playing tackle would not be the ideal situation.

A likely option in the case of injuries to more than one tackle would be the move of Kyle Long out to tackle because he made the Pro Bowl at right tackle one season. There is guard/center depth and the move of Long would let them keep their best-five-men approach.

Tackle hasn't been an area of emphasis for the Bears in recent years. The guard-center-guard trio is emphasized due to a pass-blocking scheme which tries to keep the inside rush contained at the line and funnels outside rushers outside or beyond the quarterback.

It's been their emphasis back to the beginning of Pace's arrival from New Orleans, and it was an emphasis of the New Orleans lines when he was with the Saints.

Considering Leno has never missed a start since becoming the starting left tackle in 2015, and Massie missed only the final game of 2017 with a knee injury and a game in 2016 with a concussion, the Bears have enjoyed good health at the tackle spots.

The Packers and Vikings last year are good examples of what can happen to an offense when linemen start dropping with injuries. The Bears saw this themselves at guard last year with Long at guard and had to go to waivers to find a replacement.

Unless they improve their depth more, they'll need to have this trend of good health continue.

Twitter@BearsOnMaven

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