The Chicago Bears offensive line had more than a fair share of struggles last year.
One of the key adjustments they’ve made to address the issue this off-season is returning Kyle Long to the right guard position. While the struggles the Chicago line suffered throughout 2015 can not be traced to a single position, Long did not provide the productivity the Bears were expecting from him. This is largely in part to his spending the year at the tackle position.
After being selected as the 20th pick in the 2013 draft, Long became the first offensive lineman out of Chicago to make the Pro Bowl since 2006. He was also the first Chicago Bears rookie to make the Pro Bowl game since 2009.
After being selected for the Pro Bowl again in 2014, Long became the first offensive lineman in the history of the Bears franchise to make the accomplishment in each of his first two seasons. Long played at the guard position in each of his first two seasons with Chicago.
While Long was at guard in 2013, franchise records were set by the Bears offensive unit in both passing and total yard categories. They were able to gain more first downs and score more passing touchdowns than any other offensive unit in Chicago’s storied history.
They were able to score 445 points that season, ranking second only behind the 1985 Super Bowl Champs. Chicago was able to provide a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the two seasons Long played at guard.
Just like the disappointments and failures experienced by last season’s offensive line can’t solely be placed on Long being moved to tackle, the success Chicago had on offense his first two seasons are not based on the performance of Long alone. Chicago Bears’ fans can only hope that the return to guard will become a part of history repeating itself.
With the ability and skill Chicago will have in the backfield this season and the talent and possibilities of their group of receivers, the offensive line is going to have to be able to dig deep and be able to endure some long drives if the Bears are going to compete for an NFC North title and make a postseason push.
The sure-handedness and speed of the receivers will not be an issue to opposing defenses if Jay Cutler is not able to stand on his feet long enough to get them the ball.
Getting ready to start his fourth regular season in the NFL, Kyle Long has put in more than enough work and has gained plenty of respect both on the field and in the Bears locker room to be a leader among Chicago’s offensive lineman.
Throughout 2015, Chicago lacked a voice on the line that was willing to speak up and set the example. This is Long’s chance to take over that role. He is going to have to set the pace if the Chicago offense is going to be productive with the ball.
There are plenty of players on the Chicago roster who are wanting to step up and make a name for themselves. That being said, if Chicago wants to compete as one of the top offensive units within the NFC, everything is going to have to start up front. The right guard position will be the perfect place for everything to begin.