Fans of the Chicago Bears all remember the painfully frustrating play of the offensive line two seasons ago. Mending the line clearly topped GM Phil Emery‘s priority list last offseason as he brought in four new starters, including rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills. The line was much improved last season en route to one of the best offensive seasons in Bears history.
As the Bears close up training camp, expectations for the offense remain sky high; the only problem is, those two rookie starters from last season have barely played in camp due to injury. Long, a former baseball pitching prospect, had very little high-level football experience heading into last year. He exceeded all expectations last season and was set to have an equally successful sophomore campaign until his camp was cut extremely short.
Long missed a majority of Chicago’s preseason practices due to a viral infection and shortly after his return, he was sidelined again with an ankle injury. He did return to practice earlier this week and is expected to play in Thursday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Mills started camp healthy, but he aggravated the foot injury he suffered in last season’s finale within the first few days of practice. He has been in a walking boot since and is not expected back for the game against Jacksonville. These injuries, along with injuries to backups Eben Britton and Brian de la Puente, leave the already-shallow Chicago offensive line looking slimmer than ever. The team’s offense was remarkably healthy throughout last season, which makes these early injuries a definite cause for concern.
The offensive line must be the most cohesive unit on a football team. They must know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, etc. If that’s not the case, developing and improving is near impossible. Long and Mills returning sooner rather than later is obviously in the best interest of the team. If they do come back quickly, this offensive line has a chance to be one of the best in football.
If they fail to do so, we may see a huge dropoff in production from the Bears’ prolific offense.