Any tried and true Chicago Bears fan during the night of the first-round of the NFL draft had to be screaming and shouting for the Bears to draft an offensive lineman instead of, no offense, Manti Te’o. I know I was. So with the 20th pick in the first-round, the team made a lot of fans and Jay Cutler jump for joy by picking Kyle Long, offensive guard out of the University of Oregon.
Nonetheless, that was back in April. Now, the bloom has faded from the draft day prospect rose as teams across the league have begun OTAs, giving coaches the first opportunity to evaluate new players. With first year Bears head coach Marc Trestman, there is plenty to appraise in conjunction with the offensive line. With previous Bears’ offensive starting guards Chris Spencer and Lance Louis moving on to the Tennessee Titans and the Miami Dolphins respectively, the depth chart is still fluid, giving Long, the 6’6”, 311 lbs. rookie, more than a fair chance to wrestle a starting spot away from either four-year pro Edwin Williams or five-year pro Eben Britton.
Going into training camp, Long has an advantage over both Williams and Britton. Williams, whom has been with the team since 2010, has yet to prove himself with the coaching staff and break into the starting rotation. Britton, drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was once thought of as a building block for the Jaguars organization. Before the start of the 2012 season, however, he was converted from right tackle to guard in hopes of getting some type of production from the 6’6” University of Arizona alum. At best, both Williams and Britton are serviceable backups at the guard position, while Long appears to be the present and future guard for the Bears.
Aside from competition on the roster, it’s Long’s play on the field that gives him a realistic shot at starting at either left or right guard. During his brief tenure at Oregon, Long displayed a decent skill set that has many believing he will excel as an NFL lineman. For example, with his range and thick arms, Long can extend to keep defenders at bay in pass protection while he can also turn undersized defensive tackles out of the hole with his upper body strength. His flexibility for his height is also a plus which helps him drop his hips, anchor, and explode from his stance. Long’s mobility in pulling plays, run blocking and zone plays appears to translate into what the Bears might do on the offensive side of the ball.
Long, the first guard drafted by the Bears in the first-round since 1960 when they choose Roger Davis, has an NFL pedigree as his father Howie Long was a Hall of Fame defensive end and his older brother, three-time Pro Bowler Chris Long, is currently starting defensive end for the St. Louis Rams. For the youngest Long to step out of the shadow of both his father and brother, he not only has to unanimously win the starting guard spot for the Bears, but when in the lineup, he must continue to play with the same attitude and nastiness that he displayed on the field in Oregon.