Alex Leatherwood gets a ‘clean slate’ with the Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears coach Matt Ebervloss said he was “definitely” surprised to see offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood available on the NFL’s exemption ticket on Tuesday.

Leatherwood won the Outland Trophy in Alabama as the nation’s college player in 2020, entered the NFL as the 17th pick in the 2021 draft and started every game as a rookie for the Las Vegas Raiders.

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But when Las Vegas cut their pre-season roster to the regular season limit of 53 players on Tuesday afternoon, the Leatherwood Raiders waived, even though they paid him about $8.477 million for 17 games.

Bears general manager Ryan Pauls said he went back to his reconnaissance report from the draft to decide to submit what turned out to be Leatherwood’s winning claim.

“I think the important thing to come back is a talented player, physically gifted, for sure, a prototype in his size and mobility,” the Poles said on Thursday. “Then in terms of being successful with him here, I think we all believe in developing players here, putting pieces in place to allow players to be their best selves, so we’re going to approach that in a lot of different ways, and we’re going to give him the opportunity to develop and grow.

Hey, forgot about draft picking. That’s over. Let’s start from the ground floor. Let’s build you up and take your time and whatever that is, we want to put him in the best position to succeed. (Beers Offensive Coach) Chris Morgan and his crew and everyone around the weight room, we’re going to give him our all We got it.”

Eberfels said the bears had inside information on Leatherwood. Austin King assistant offensive line coach was the Bears defensive line coach the Las Vegas Narrows and Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith was the assistant defensive line coach Las Vegas last year. Rod Marinelli, the Raiders defensive line coach last year, is Eberflus’ mentor.

“We studied it on tape,” Eberlus said Thursday. “We looked at him. Some guys were with him, guys who were in Vegas last year. We have two coaches on our crew. I know Coach Marinelli. He used that as a resource, he’s only had good reports.

“We’re excited to have him. We’ll see where he goes from here. It’s a clean slate, it’s a fresh start for him, and we’ll see where we started. Again, we won’t reveal that now. I’m still working with the coaches on that. But it’s a clean slate and a fresh start for him” .

Eberfels said the Chicago employees liked a certain aspect of Leatherwood’s skill set.

“One of the things that stands out when you look at it is, first, blocking running,” Eberflus said. “His blocking is really good. He’s got a good balance when it comes to that. He can stick and stay on guys. That’s what we love about him the most right now. He’s going to improve his game. He’s a young player and we have some good coaches to help him. Chris Morgan is one of the best coaches in the FA. American Football. We’re excited to bring these guys together.”

Leatherwood joined Las Vegas when Mike Mayock was the general manager and John Gruden was the head coach. At the offseason, Raiders imported leadership from New England, where new general manager Dave Ziegler was personnel manager and new head coach Josh McDaniels was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator.

“We’ve talked about the competition since we’ve been here at every position group and we’re trying to give every player a chance to earn their job, to earn their role whatever that role,” McDaniels said Thursday when asked about Leatherwood’s launch. “Some are bigger than others. We felt like we did it. We gave everyone a chance to go out and play and really perform. And so there’s a lot of tough decisions that you make all over the roster, and hopefully you make them right. We’re not perfect at that. Hopefully we’ve had.” We did our best for our team, and tried to make decisions that we thought would help us moving forward, so I hope Alex can be anything but the best. He has done everything he can here to try to earn his role here, and as I said, I wish him the best as he goes.”

Leatherwood started the first four games of his NFL career on the right tackle, then started 14 games (including a playoff) in the right guard.

Among the players kept in Las Vegas’ offensive line this season are offensive interceptions by Thayer Monford Jr., a seventh-round player from Ohio State’s 2022 Tournament, and Jackson Barton, another former seventh-placed player who has played in two NFL games. The three. seasons.

When asked about the four unregistered rookies who made the 53, McDaniels said, “We’ve said it, and I think sometimes you say it and people hear it and let it come out the other ear, but it’s not really about how here, it’s about what you do when you get here.”

Leatherwood said he was looking forward to what he could do in Chicago, not trying to figure out what happened in Las Vegas.

“It’s not really my concern,” Leatherwood said when asked about the development of events with the raiders. “I’m more interested in the future and the things that are happening here now.”

Leatherwood arrived in Chicago around midnight on Wednesday. He took a physical exam and started working with the bears on Thursday.

“I’m just here excited about the new opportunity I have,” Leatherwood said. “You know what I mean? I will make the most of it. …

“I consider it a positive thing. I am an optimist, and I am grateful.”

The Bears are expected to open the season with Braxton Jones on the left tackle and Larry Borum on the right tackle. Jones joined Chicago from Southern Utah in the fifth round of the NFL Draft on April 30. Choosing the fifth round from Missouri State in 2021, Borum started eight games for the Bears as a rookie.

Chicago has starting player Cody Whitehair in the left guard and 2021 picks Tiffin Jenkins in the second round in the right guard while Sam Mustafier is back in position after injury to signed Lucas Patrick. Jenkins started two interference games as a rookie.

Regarding his position, Leatherwood said he is “open to anything”.

“I think he has the ability to play multiple positions, which is a huge benefit,” the Poles said.

Chicago will kick off the 2022 season with a home game against the San Francisco 49ers at noon on September 11th.

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Mark Enabinet is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at Hahahaha.

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