For years, the Chicago Bears have missed on nearly every first-round selection during the Jerry Angelo era. When Phil Emery was hired as the general manager in January of 2012, many had hoped that trend would change. And considering his past as a scout in the NFL, that should be something he excels at.
When the 2012 draft rolled around and the Bears were up to pick at No. 19, anybody who knew anything about the NFL Draft was more than surprised when Roger Goodell announced Shea McClellin as the selection. The defensive end out of Boise State was a very good player in college, no doubt, but the mainstream draft experts did not have him anywhere near the 19th pick of the event.
Last year, McClellin showed glimpses of what he could be, but for most, a situational player who was really just used to spur starters Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije didn’t cut it for a first-round pick. Many wanted a starter from that spot, but they were disappointed last year.
The same could be said this past April. When pick 20 came up and the Bears were on the clock, not many people had Kyle Long on their radar for that high of a choice. Yet, Emery once again made a surprise pick.
Coming into this training camp, one of the most interesting story lines was how these two guys would play. And so far, both have not disappointed this camp and preseason.
Both received the start Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers, and both played tremendously.
It was a rocky start for Long and the rest of the offensive line, as the Bears had three-straight losses including two sacks in the first series. Obviously, all three of those plays don’t fall solely on one member of the line, but it doesn’t make any of them look good either. However, from there-on-out, the running game had good holes open up and the quarterback had a relatively, if not completely, clean pocket to throw from. They ran it to Long’s side — who was also paired with rookie right tackle Jordan Mills for the first two-plus quarters of the game — on three-consecutive plays at one point to get 11 yards and a touchdown for Matt Forte, which was a very promising sign.
Suffice to say, he was solid all game long, against starters and backups alike. Even Jay Cutler was impressed and pleased with his (and Mills) performance.
“[Long and Mills] run blocked well and their pass protection was just as good,” Cutler said via ChicagoBears.com. “We’ll keep going with those guys and I know [Aaron] Kromer will coach them up. I’m sure there are corrections to be made, but I was at ease having them in, which is nice.”
Those words should be music to the ears of any Bears fan. Sure, it was only one preseason game, but has he ever said that before about his offensive line here in Chicago? Nope.
McClellin, as previously stated, got the start in place for Peppers, who was held out simply for precautionary reasons. He’s had a very strong camp, and that translated onto the field Thursday to the tune of four tackles and a sack-fumble forced on Philip Rivers.
Now, sure, Max Starks isn’t an elite left tackle, but nevertheless, his speed rush off the outside is brilliant. He was barely touched by Starks on his way around him, and the fact of the matter is, that’s something he is very gifted with. He’s just too fast for offensive lineman. Is he an every-down player? That remains to be seen, but he should see more time this year splitting reps with Peppers and Corey Wootton, and that will give us a better picture of how far he’s come.
Again, it was only one preaseason game. But it’s nice to see strong contributions being made by the two first-round selections of Emery. Hopefully, that’ll continue and become a new trend for the Bears.