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10 Most Important Bears of 2015: #9 Is Kyle Long ready to take his game to a new level?

For the 7th straight year, I'm bringing you who I believe will be the ten most important Chicago Bears for the upcoming season. Coming in at #9 is a Pro Bowl player that may be changing positions, Kyle Long.

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When I first starting working on my Most Important Chicago Bears list this year, I didn't have any offensive linemen make the cut. That's not to say I don't value the big men in the trenches, it's just that my first few drafts had me wavering on which o-lineman to put on the list. I guess you could say I was splitting my vote between a few guys.

The Bears will have a new center this season, the left guard ended 2014 on injured reserve, the left tackle struggled through some injuries last year and the right tackle never seemed right after offseason surgery, plus he was dinged up during the season too.

There are a lot of question marks on Chicago's line in 2015 and the questions have even trickled over to the one constant from the last two years. The Bears are having internal discussions about moving Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long to tackle on a permanent basis.

I could have gone the 'name the entire position group' route for #9, but when looking at the five projected starters, I kept coming back to the best of the group and his continued development.

As you probably have guessed by now, I'm going with Kyle Long as number nine on my list this year.

Long has been working out at tackle this offseason, not only to get some reps in case of injury, but to let the coaches see how he moves on an island. Playing tackle is very different than playing inside at guard, and as much as Long's athleticism screams offensive tackle, there's a lot more to it than that.

I'm firmly in the keep Long at guard camp, because I've yet to see consistent technique from him over his first two years as a pro. But if the coaches feel he's ready, and if the coaches stick him at tackle and keep him there, then make the move on the first day of training camp and live with it.

With Roberto Garza moving on from Chicago, that leaves Kyle Long as the offensive lineman with the most starts as a Bear left on the team. Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson and newcomer Will Montgomery all have Long beat as far as years of NFL service, but none have as many starts as Long's 31 in the Navy and Orange. Bushrod is close with 30 and he can match Long's 2 Pro Bowl nods, but the 26 year old Long is still growing as a player.

I'm expecting him to take another leap on the field and in the locker room.

If the Bears get back to some smash-mouth football like head coach John Fox claims, the o-line will be as important as ever. Lining up in a three point stance and knocking the snot of of people is a great way to start building an offense's identity, and no one on the offense is more capable of doing that than Kyle Long.

Than again, if Adam Gase's offense does employ some Martzian principles, being able to pass block just a tick longer than usual will be a necessity, and Long is capable of doing that too.

Regardless of which position Long ends up playing this season, 2015 should be the year that Kyle Long assumes his role as leader of the offensive line, and him continuing his Pro Bowl level of play will be the anchor the group needs.