Chicago Bears Should Permanently Move Kyle Long to RT


Chicago Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long had very little game experience coming into the NFL from the University of Oregon, but his skills and athleticism were off the charts. The Bears believed in his upside, and selected him with the 20th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, a selection that left many so-called draft experts scratching their head.

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Two years later, Long is a Pro Bowl player at the right guard position, and one of the cornerstones of the entire Bears’ franchise. His obvious skills have led him to a ton of success on the field early in his career.

On Wednesday, both starting tackles for the Bears (Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills) sat out of their 90-minute OTA with injuries. With their lack of options at the position, the Bears kicked Long outside, and he held down the right tackle duties throughout the entire practice.

Since the day he was drafted, many have wondered if the Bears should slide Long outside to the tackle position on a permanent basis. With his great speed and athleticism for an offensive lineman, it is certainly a possibility worth considering.

While Long has been great at guard, and is now one of the best interior lineman in the game, he has the skills to be successful at tackle as well. Long’s value as a player increases if he succeeds as a tackle, but is it worth risking messing him up after so much success as a guard?

Jan 25, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Team Irvin guard Kyle Long of the Chicago Bears (75) defends against Team Carter of the Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (99) in the 2015 Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In my opinion, it is worth giving Long a chance to succeed as a tackle. Mostly because I have a ton of confidence in him succeeding at the position.

Entering the NFL, Long was considered to be a very raw prospect, but one thing that scouts consistently loved was his natural ability to mirror defenders in pass protection. Long has a knack for simply staying in front of a pass rusher and reacting to what they are doing. That is a very valued skill on the offensive line, and he has continued to excel at it in the NFL.

With his great speed, athleticism and natural ability to mirror, I strongly believe that Long’s pass protection success would continue on the outside against more dangerous speed rushers.

Long kind of brushed off the idea of moving outside permanently when asked about it after practice on Wednesday. “I’m so near-sighted I can’t really think past today or this week,” Long told Jeff Dickerson of ESPN. “I’ve always felt I could do it, but who knows. We have guys that play right tackle, so we’re going to figure out where we’re going to go. Right now they needed somebody in practice, so I jumped at the opportunity.”

Bears head coach John Fox appears to think that Long at least has the talent to play the position:

"“[Long is] obviously a very, very capable athlete. He’s got great strength, great athleticism. So I think he’s capable of playing anywhere across the line,” Fox told Dickerson. “Right now he’s a starting guard, and we’re out here trying to get better as a football team, learn a new system. We had a shortage of tackles right now. We’ve got a couple guys in the training room. So we took a look at him there today. He can play just about anywhere across the O-line.”"

Both Fox and Long would not commit to anything, but they both seemed to think the move was at least realistic. Mills was the starting right tackle last season, and while he was solid, he simply does not move very well for an offensive tackle. Mills struggles with speed rushers at times, which can be a serious problem for a guy playing the offensive tackle position.

Not only would a move to right tackle increase the value of Long, moving to right guard would play to the strengths of Mills, who is more of a power player. Mills would continue to open up holes in the Bears’ run game as a guard, and would not face near as many speed rushers on the inside. Also, tackle is the more difficult position to play. Long is simply the better player, and should be the one getting challenged in this scenario.

Simply flipping Long and Mills on the right side of the Bears’ offensive line is a seemingly minor move that could pay major dividends. Long is an offensive lineman with a ton of upside, and his skills translate perfectly to the tackle position.

Keeping him inside only limits his potential. It is time to challenge Long to make a difference on the outside.

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