Chicago Bears vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Five players to watch

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Chicago Bears cody whitehair
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Cody Whitehair

An offensive lineman on this list? Yep. Not an offensive tackle either, though everyone will be watching them anyway.

With Kyle Long out (and perhaps even when he returns), Cody Whitehair may well be the Bears’ best offensive lineman. As such, it was a bit disconcerting to see him struggle on Sunday. His two holding penalties and bad snap were very uncharacteristic of his usual play, which earned him recognition as one of the best young linemen in football last year.

At the same time, it can’t help that he hasn’t enjoyed much stability thus far.

Whitehair shuffled back and forth throughout the preseason as the Bears decided what to do about Long’s injury. At times, he stayed at center with Tom Compton stepping in at guard, which is the way the Bears played it Sunday. But he also bumped over to left guard so that Hroniss Grasu could get snaps at center, which may have thrown off his preparation a bit.

Whatever the case is, Whitehair needs to get back on track this week. With questionable tackles to go with the questionable status of Long, the offensive line doesn’t have much room for error. And when the Bears do manage to put together a solid drive, they can’t have costly penalties killing progress.

Plus, he can’t afford to be off his game with Gerald McCoy standing across from him. He struggled a couple of times to hold off Dontari Poe last week, so how he handles McCoy and Chris Baker will bear watching.

Let’s hope that Sunday was just a blip on the radar screen. The Chicago Bears really need him to play like the Pro Bowl-caliber player he is.