Before I get into their grades, I wanted to give my general impressions of both Kyle Long and Jordan Mills from Monday Night against the Dallas Cowboys. The word that I kept coming back to was 'tenacity'. Both Mills and Long had good feet and a solid hand punch, but it was their tenacious stick-to-itiveness that really stood out to me.
Each had only a handful of plays where they didn't keep it going full tilt from whistle to whistle. Their aggressive nature and sustained blocks had to be annoying the Dallas defenders. Defensive players obviously don't like to be blocked, and they really don't like it when they are getting blocked far away from the play. Once Long and Mills lock onto a target, they usually stay attached.
As to my grades, I graded each player on 71 offensive snaps, and both came away with good marks. If you don't know my grading system, it's not that complicated, you get a plus if you do your job and a minus if you don't. I explained my criteria a little more in depth when I graded their week one performance against the Cincinnati Bengals. I also graded the two rookies from their week five game against the New York Giants.
For their week 14 play, I gave Kyle Long a +67 and I gave Jordan Mills a +64.
There were a few pluses on each player that I gave the benefit of the doubt to. By not knowing their specific assignments on every play, I had to use my best judgement. For example; There were a few times they passed up the closer block to go 2nd level, but since they got to their man, and the defender they left was accounted for, I assumed that was the scheme.
There were also a few plays where they were the backside blockers, and they didn't get a solid hit on a Cowboy, but they still executed their zone blocking track as coached. I gave them a plus for doing their job in these instances, because sometimes a defensive player just reads a play and gets a good jump.
Again, I don't have any gray area when I grade, because there is no gray area between the lines. On every play I ask, "Did he do his job?", if the answer is yes, then he receives a plus.
Now I'll get into some specifics, so if you have NFL Rewind or if you DVR the game, feel free to play along.
+) On the seventh play of the game, at around 5:22 the Bears had a 1st and 10, and they ran the fake to the fullback flip toss to the tailback. We've seen the Bears run this play a few times this season, and it's a good misdirection to give pause to a defense. I would like to see them actually hand off to the fullback at some point, as that will actually help sell the fake even more.
I gave Jordan Mills a plus on this play because the scheme dictated he leave the defensive end alone, and block 2nd level. The DE is essentially "blocked" when he crashes down at the FB fake, and then when Matt Forte takes the toss, the DE is out of position to stop the play.
Mills hit his 2nd level block and sustained it throughout the play, helping Forte pick up 12 yards and a first down.
+/-) On the very next official play on the game, a 1st and 15 following a penalty, the Cowboys ran a DT/DE stunt. Josh McCown completed a pass to Brandon Marshall (I thought only Jay threw to B. Marsh?) for a 13 yard gain. Kyle Long passed the DT on to Jordan Mills, and accepted the stunting DE.
Mills, who should have closed the gap between he and Long since the DE went inside, allowed the DT to get between he and Long. He couldn't prevent the Cowboy DT from slipping the block to the inside, and getting a hit on McCown just as he released the ball. Mills picked up his first minus of the day, while Long got the plus.
-) On the second Chicago series, Long received his first minus on the day. It was a 1st and 10, in the 2nd quarter at around the 11:21 mark. Long doubled with Bears center Roberto Garza, then he was supposed to work up to the second level. He did, he just couldn't cut off the flowing Dallas linebacker. This would have been a tough block had he made it, but he still received the minus.
-) On the 4th play of the Bears second series in the 2nd half, Jordan Mills was bull-rushed straight back into McCown's face. Mills did a good job in staying between his man and his QB, but had Mills stayed a little lower out of his stance, he would have had the leverage to stop the bull-rush.
-) Kyle Long received his fourth and final minus in the 4th quarter with about 6:23 left in the game. It was a 3rd and 12, and the Bears called a pass play. Long stood up a little too high, and when the Dallas defender crashed into him, it jolted Long's balance enough to allow the Cowboy DT to slip inside the attempted block.
There wasn't any glaring mistakes from either rookie in the game. There were no instances where either appeared to be confused. Both played very good in my opinion.
Looking to 2014, I think Long is going to be a rock where ever the Bears end up putting him. If guard is his home, I think he'll thrive, but I also see enough quickness for him to make the move to tackle.
Mills is still out-quicked at times, but he has the technique to be an NFL starting right tackle. I think the Bears are pleased with his play and his growth this season, but I also think they need to continue to improve the talent along the line. I would not be surprised to see the Bears bring in some RT competition this off season.
This might be outside the box thinking, but I can envision a Bears future where Long kicks out to right tackle, and Mills slides inside to guard.
What are your thoughts on the two rookies so far, and what are your thoughts on their future growth?