We had so much fun doing our Countdown to Kickoff series last season that we decided to do it again. In case you’re new to the series, we’ll do a roster preview as we count down the days until the Chicago Bears September 7th season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
After several years of enormous struggles on the offensive line, the Bears finally found some consistency and stability in 2013. Free agent signing and left tackle Jermon Bushrod protected quarterback Jay Cutler’s blindside, left guard Matt Slauson brought the nastiness the team needed, center Roberto Garza remained the veteran leader and Kyle Long played up to his first-round draft pick status. Few could have expected though that a fifth-round rookie would round out the starting offensive line and start in all 16 games — but Jordan Mills did just that.
Mills seemed to know even before the Bears did that he would eventually become the starting right tackle for the team. “I know they just got the tackle from New Orleans, (Jermon) Bushrod,” Mills told Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times shortly after being drafted. “With him on the left side and me on the right side, that’s going to be a line to reckon with.”
It’s that confidence that helped Mills establish himself as a starter and helped protect Cutler more than any other Bears offensive line has since the quarterback joined the team in 2009. However, according to Pro Football Focus, Mills was by far the weakest link on the line and especially struggled in his pass protection. His flaws and mistakes were not as noticeable during the 2013 season though due to the high performance of the Bears offense and in particular their passing game. On the bright side, Mills led the NFL in performance-based pay, proving that the team got incredible value in 2013 for its fifth-round draft pick.
Mills remains the starting right tackle for the team heading into the 2014 season, but he will have increased competition in training camp from newcomers Cody Booth, Michael Ola and Charles Leno, Jr. as well as backups James Brown and Joe Long. Hopefully for the Bears and their fans, the 6-5, 316-pound tackle has overcome the broken foot he suffered during the 2013 season finale against the Green Bay Packers and will make huge strides during the 2014 campaign.
Be on the lookout for our Countdown to Kickoff series as we continue to work our way to the season opener on September 7th. We’re 67 days from kickoff. Are you ready???