When Bears center Cody Whitehair left Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams with a calf injury, the Bears sent out undrafted center Sam Mustipher to take snaps.
The former Notre Dame center has played on the big stage, helping the Irish to the College Football Playoff during the 2018 season. Still, Monday night was the first time Mustipher played in an NFL game.
“He did a good job,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “The one thing with Sam that we all know from day one since he was here is he's extremely bright. He really sees the field well in regards to fronts and linebackers. There's going to be times where you get beat or you miss something. The best of the best do that. But, overall, I thought he did a good job.”
The Bears called up Mustipher from the practice squad following James Daniels’ injury two weeks ago. Whitehair missed practice Wednesday, and his status for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints is uncertain.
That could place some serious pressure on Mustipher and the Bears offensive line, which has been reeling for four straight weeks.
The Bears need to find answers in the run game, because what they’re doing right now isn’t working. Nagy said practice squad running back Lamar Miller is “getting close” to a return.
Miller signed with the Bears on a practice squad deal on Oct. 5. The former Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans running back hasn’t played since 2018 after suffering a torn ACL in the 2019 preseason.
“Lamar is looking better and better each day, really each week,” Nagy said. “We keep talking to him. And when we're back there [in practice], he's on the 'looks' team and giving our defense different looks.”
Whether Miller is the answer, though, is anyone's guess.
Since Tarik Cohen tore his ACL in Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Bears have not had a true change-of-pace back to complement running back David Montgomery. They’ve used Cordarrelle Patterson as a running back, but not with much frequency and with little success to show for it.
Quarterback Nick Foles said he could do a better job of recognizing the defense and having the Bears in the right play. Executing in the pass game could open things for the run game, Foles said.
But the Bears have not executed well enough in the run or the pass for either to be opening up much of anything for the other.
“That’s why being multifaceted on offense is so important, being able to execute all the little things, opens up the run, which opens up the pass,” Foles said. “It sort of works together so those little things, completing the ball and doing my job, will help.”
Doing so will only be harder with a backup center in the starting lineup. The extent of Whitehair’s injury remains unknown.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bears use their tight ends more in the run game, as they did with success in Weeks 1 and 2, as an extra blocker.
Whatever Nagy schemes up, something has to change. The Bears aren’t going to keep winning games with the NFL’s worst run game.