Charles Leno didn't need to wait for film breakdown after the third exhibition game to know where he had gone wrong.
With a chance to nail down the right tackle job after the Bears had demoted Jordan Mills, Leno had two bad snaps by the coaches' estimation. But two snaps out of his 32 were enough to serve as the final domino for a major shift on the offensive line. Former first-round draft pick Kyle Long was moved from his spot at right guard, where he was a Pro Bowl performer the last two seasons.
Fast forward five weeks and Leno is back in the spotlight, expected to start at left tackle Sunday against the Raiders because Jermon Bushrod was ruled out with a concussion and shoulder injury. It's a huge opportunity for Leno, the seventh-round pick from 2014, in a year in which the Bears will want to get a handle on what they have in their younger players.
In Leno's case, Bushrod has been battling a back issue that kept him out for nearly the entire offseason program. Bushrod, 31, is managing that issue, but the lingering injury makes the position a question mark for 2016. Bushrod is signed for $6.5 million next season and $6.7 million in 2017.
During the exhibition in Cincinnati, Leno set too wide, opening an inside alley for Carlos Dunlap on a sack. On a Jacquizz Rodgers run, he lost leverage and was called for holding. He wasn't overmatched in his audition but he also didn't give the coaching staff confidence he was ready for the job.
"That was a big opportunity," Leno said. "I wouldn't say I was too amped up. My fundamentals weren't all the way there. Technique and fundamentals take you a long way. I had a good camp and it slipped away from me.
"It wasn't like I blatantly got beat. I beat myself. And when you beat yourself, that comes down to fundamentals."
Leno kept his head up after returning from Cincinnati knowing a lineup change that didn't include him was imminent. It was an opportunity lost, not a season.
"I told myself I am going to work harder and find a way to get better, correct those mistakes," he said.
Leno replaced Bushrod in the third quarter Sunday in Seattle and has had the week to prepare knowing he likely would get the call. The biggest question is, has he improved since facing the Bengals? The Raiders have a formidable pass rush with defensive ends Khalil Mack and Justin Tuck and will certainly test Leno early.
"I have been taking a lot of goods sets this week and last week," Leno said. "I have been focusing on just getting better with Coach Mags (Dave Magazu) and talking to Bush and some of the older guys trying to help myself out."
Left guard Matt Slauson left little doubt Leno will do better on a bigger stage; he has been telling Leno since the preseason that he can't let game situations become too big.
"Charles is a beast," Slauson said. "The way he performed all spring and all camp was lockdown across the board. Unfortunately, we got in the preseason and he got himself too hyped. He was putting too much pressure on himself and he was playing outside of himself. And I've had these conversations with him.
"If he just settles down and doesn't try to be anyone else, he's gonna be great. ... He's strong. He's got a great punch and a great feel for the tackle position. He just needs to settle himself down and I've been working with him on that."
Some believe Leno, 6-foot-3 and 302 pounds, is a better fit on the left side because he doesn't quite have the brawn most prefer ay right tackle for a mauler in the running game. He does possess the footwork and athleticism needed to play the left side, where he was for 26 of his 39 starts at Boise State.
"Skill-set wise, he's probably more adaptable to the left side," coach John Fox said. "It's a huge opportunity for him and we're all excited and anxious to see how he performs."
Leno grew up a Raiders fan in San Leandro, Calif., and his family had season tickets. He has 10 family members and friends coming to town for the game. But he's aiming to impress his coaches and teammates, fully aware of what is at stake.
"I am going to take full advantage," he said. "I've worked my tail off since that Cincinnati game."
Forte's trade value?
Even before the Bears traded Jared Allen and Jon Bostic for sixth-round draft picks, there were questions whether the team would consider dealing Matt Forte. It would take a unique situation for the Bears to even be able to deal him considering his salary. Here is what two evaluators with other teams said about what the Bears potentially could receive in return:
"Twenty-nine-year-old running back in the last year of his deal, still a good player but with no guarantee of re-signing him, and who wants to guarantee a 30-year-old running back money?" an assistant general manager said. "It would have to be a team that thought they were only one player away from the Super Bowl, and you never are. I think they'd get a sixth-round pick at best. They did good getting a six for Allen."
"My guess is a six," said a pro personnel director. "Possibly a low five if a contending teams gets desperate. He is unrestricted after this season. One thing a team that would trade for him should keep in mind: If they can make a deal for Forte, they could potentially get a compensatory pick back in '17 because someone will sign Forte in the offseason."