I had a chance to talk with Jared Light of Addicted To Quack, the SB Nation site that is dedicated to the Oregon Ducks, about the #1 draft pick of the Bears, Kyle Long.
Addicted to Quack had a few questions for us about how Long will fit in with the Bears, head over and check out the Q&A we did with them.
Windy City Gridiron - Kyle Long only had a handful of starts at left guard last season, but how much playing time did he receive at left tackle before that 9th game against USC?
Addicted To Quack - He played the position a fair amount before eventually taking over the left guard position. In his first game against Arkansas State, he came in and played LT after the starter went down early in the game. He stayed there the entire game (an oddity in Oregon's system), despite all starters being pulled after 1 1/2 quarters in the rout. This was not only due to injury, but because of Long's inexperience. He was unable to participate in spring practice last year due to NCAA rules, so he only had a month to learn Oregon's offense.
Unfortunately, his inexperience was further hampered by an ankle injury that caused him to miss early games against Tennessee Tech and Arizona. After his return, he continued to play a significant amount of time at the position, including a romp at Arizona State, though he never earned the starting position at tackle.
However, one thing I'd like to stress is that while it's nice to have the term "starter," Oregon's offense runs so many plays, many times the backups see the field just as much as the starters. Long definitely fell into this category, and he was integral to Oregon's ground success in 2012, at both tackle and guard. Oregon had to deal with a large number of injuries throughout the year and shuffled players along the line constantly. Long's play, despite his inexperience, helped propel Oregon to the best rushing numbers in school history. If Kyle Long had not transferred to Oregon last year, I don't think that would have happened.
WCG - During his only year at Oregon was he ever physically outmatched?
ATQ - Stanford. Freaking Stanford. The entire offensive line was a borderline disaster in that game, and Long was part of that group effort. The entire line was just incredibly inconsistent. They had far too many bad plays that outweighed anything good they did throughout the game. Long had some good play during that game that, but he also made some mistakes that made life tough on QB Marcus Mariota and the Oregon running backs.
I think that this is the game that really shows the weaknesses that most scouts see in Long. He just doesn't have the technique that a lot of experienced linemen have, and he struggled at times when he couldn't simply overmatch opponents physically. There are some plays in that game where he bursts off the line, and dominates his opponent. But there were others when he would be beaten on the first move and end up chasing his man into the backfield (the good news was he didn't give up on those plays).
WCG - Bears fans like their o-linemen with a little 'nasty' to their game, does Long have this attribute?
ATQ - Oregon's offensive line has struggled with physicality and having that mean streak over the last few years. That wasn't a problem last year. Long and the rest of the offensive line really stepped it up, and took pride in punishing other teams. I think this is something Bears fans should be excited to see, and will hopefully have an impact early in Long's NFL career.
WCG - Due to his long and winding road to Oregon he was older (now 24) than the other players on the team, did his maturity show in terms of leadership to his teammates?
ATQ - There aren't many stories coming out about Long's leadership. A big part of that is he was only with the team for a few months. It's tough to take on any role of leadership with that level of inexperience. This doesn't mean he's not a leader. There's no real reason to think he can't be, but that just wasn't really a real opportunity at Oregon.
WCG - Do you think Long was a reach at 20, and do you see him becoming a good pro in Chicago?
ATQ - That's a really tough question to answer, because I'm not grading the rest of the offensive linemen. It seems as the Bears love Long's athleticism, which is impressive. But the Stanford game makes it pretty clear that Long isn't likely to be a Pro Bowler at guard for at least two years. He simply has too much to learn. He has to go against the best and learn how to deal with that. I think that he can do that, but it's going to take some time. But, he's big, he's strong, and he moves really, really well. It's a high-risk, high-reward move by Emery and the Bears, and as a fan of both Oregon and Chicago, I'm hopeful it'll work out.
Thanks again to the guys over at Addicted To Quack!
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