Chicago Bears claimed an offensive lineman off of waivers
The Chicago Bears claimed offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood off of waivers Wednesday morning. The Bears need depth at the offensive line position. Leatherwood has experience playing interior line positions as well as at tackle.
Leatherwood was a first-round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2021. He was projected to play at right tackle but has also worked as a guard for the Raiders. Leatherwood didn’t seem to fit with the Raiders, and the new regime cut him loose yesterday. He gave up eight sacks last season.
After a rough rookie season, analysts suggested Leatherwood lacked good fundamentals. Nick Shook with NFL.com wrote about what the Raiders coaching staff thought of former Alabama Crimson Tide product:
“The regime that selected Leatherwood didn’t last beyond the 2021 season, and the Alabama product began Year 2 back at tackle under coach Josh McDaniels. Position fit didn’t matter to McDaniels as much as the basics of playing offensive line in the NFL, with McDaniels telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal “what we’re going to focus on is fundamentals, technique.”
We didn’t need the Rosetta Stone to translate what McDaniels was saying. After a second professional preseason, evidently, Leatherwood didn’t improve his technique enough to keep his job. Perhaps even more significant is the Raiders lost Parker to a season-ending triceps injury, and still waived Leatherwood.”
The Chicago Bears have a project player
Leatherwood is an intriguing prospect, as he has the size to be an elite offensive lineman in the NFL. He’s a pickup I’ve thought the Bears should look at because of his potential. The Chicago Bears need depth on the unit. Leatherwood can potentially be a key player on the offensive line if he can progress with the rest of the youth on the unit.
The Chicago Bears currently retain multiple rookies and second-year players on the offensive line. As Braxton Jones has relayed to the media, offensive line coach Chris Morgan is working with his players on their technique. That’s something Leatherwood didn’t get with the Raiders.
Leatherwood was drafted into a bad situation
Leatherwood was thought to be a draft reach by former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. Per Dalton Blackman of Raider Ramble, Leatherwood wasn’t given a fair shake with the Raiders:
“Looking at his college tape, it was hard to see Leatherwood as a plug-and-play tackle. He just did not have the refined technique on his pass sets to be on an island with NFL edge rushers. His footwork was slow, his punches were sloppy, and he tended to reach too far and get off balance. His mauler style always seemed like a better fit on the inside.
Despite all that, the Raiders threw him right into the fire. The end result was Leatherwood getting burned. After a disastrous start to the season at tackle, the brain trust of Jon Gruden and Tom Cable decided to move him inside at guard. After spending the past several months learning the new offense and adjusting to the NFL at tackle, Leatherwood was suddenly asked to make a mid-season position switch to a spot he had not played in several years. The switch went about as well as expected. His struggles continued. However, you could at least see some improvement as the season went on and he got more comfortable at guard.
This past offseason, the Raiders ushered in a new regime, with Josh McDaniels taking over as head coach and Carmen Bricillo commandeering the offensive line. The funny thing about power changing hands is that the incoming regime always believes that they can do better. Consequently, Leatherwood was moved back out to tackle, and any progress he had made at guard was eroded. Unsurprisingly, Leatherwood has struggled mightily this preseason. Who would’ve thought?”
Chicago Bears need to show patience with Leatherwood
The Chicago Bears must be patient and work with Leatherwood on his fundamentals. They need to decide where will fit on the offensive line and keep him there. It will be interesting to see the Chicago Bears work with Leatherwood and Teven Jenkins. Both are high-round draft picks at offensive tackle who have many question marks surrounding them in their second season.
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