If the Chicago Bears want to be a running team, they need to get consistent and competent play from the offensive line. Racking up 165.5 yards per game on the ground through 2 preseason games (3rd best in the NFL) is great, but it's also being done by, and against, 2nd and 3rd stringers, and guys that will be among the first wave of cuts on September 1st.
The interior of the Bears' line seems solid with left guard Matt Slauson, center Will Montgomery and right guard Kyle Long, but offensive tackle has become a problem.
Starting right tackle Jordan Mills lost his job to Charles Leno Jr. after struggling a bit in the first preseason game. A mental mistake, like a false start on the very first play of the game, is unconscionable. Leno started against the Colts last week, but he looked worse than Mills. He added his own false start, but one-upped Mills with an illegal hands to the face penalty.
Sure it was Leno's first time running with the ones in a sort-of-real-game, but he didn't give the coaching staff the confidence they were hoping to gain with the position change.
And now starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod is dealing with a back injury, which means it could be Mills and Leno at the tackle spots unless someone better can be found. Hopefully Bushrod's back issue on Tuesday was just a minor flare up, but keep in mind he missed most of the offseason work out program with a back injury. There may be an ongoing problem the Bears have to monitor.
I don't see a better tackle option on the current roster than these three guys. Maybe they give Michael Ola a shot, but I thought he looked better at guard last year. Chicago's best bet may come from outside the organization.
When looking over the list of available free agent tackles, the guy atop everyone's list is Jake Long.
Here are the issues with Long. One, he's coming off two consecutive ACL injuries. He tore his ACL during week 16 of the 2013 season, then he injured the same knee during week 8 of last season. The second issue, and it's a minor one, is that Long has never played anything other than left tackle during his 7 year NFL career.
We can't assume he can flip his footwork over to the right side, after not playing there since early in his collegiate career, no more than we can assume that the Bears' Kyle Long can kick out to tackle after two pro bowl season's at guard. A position change always requires some technique work.
At this point in his career, I doubt any team will ask Jake Long to line up as a left tackle. He was always known to be more of a mauler than a finesse player, and his athleticism may have taken a hit with his numerous injuries. But if he can transition to the right side, he would be an upgrade over what the Bears currently have.
Long has already met with the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos, and the Giants have even cleared him medically. It's possible that Long is just slow playing the process in hopes to get a few suitors in a bidding war.
According to Spotrac, the Bears have about $8.4 million in cap space right now. That number could fluctuate if there are any surprise cuts, but with the Broncos inking former Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis to a $4 million deal, Long couldn't expect to get much more than that.
When looking over the list of free agent tackles, the 30 year old Long really is the only one that would provide an definite upgrade for the Bears.
Here are a few other top veteran free agent tackles just so you can see the type of "talent" we're talking about. Tyson Clabo, Sam Baker, Anthony Collins, and a few ex-Bears on the scrap heap, Eben Britton (who if signed, will be suspended for 4 games), Gabe Carimi, and Chris Williams.
In my opinion general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears have four viable options for the offensive tackle position.
- Sign Jake Long, but so far there has been no reported interest by Chicago.
- Kick Kyle Long outside from his right guard spot. But the longer they wait, the longer his learning curve will be.
- Scour the waiver wire once teams cut down to 75 on September 1st, then again when teams cut to the final 53 on September 5th.
- Hope Bushrod is healthy enough and that a serviceable right tackle will present himself among the players already on the roster. He was back at practice today, so there's that...
What are your thoughts on the tackle position for the Chicago Bears?