Projecting the Chicago Bears Starting 11: Offense
Kyle Long, RT
Aug 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long (75) during the second quarter of the preseason game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Whoa, whoa, whoa… Right tackle? Yep, you heard it here first. Of course, that might just make me the earliest person to be wrong, but during OTAs and mini-camp we’ve seen that the coaching staff has been moving the Pro Bowl RG around to different positions along the offensive line.
Is it risky to move your best o-lineman from the position he’s flourished at his first two years in the league to one he’s never played? Hell yes, it is. Long is undeniably the best athlete the Bears have among their front five, however, and teammate Jordan Mills hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire out there at RT. The NFL places a high premium on edge rushers and pays those guys handsomely to be athletic and disruptive for a defense; to combat that you need guys on the outside of an o-line that can move.
Nov 27, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long (75) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
No matter how good the rest of the offense is, it always comes back to the offensive line and within that unit the most important position is typically the tackle protecting the QB’s blind side. In fact, some football minds would say that’s the most important position in all of football. That position for the Bears is LT so the move to RT for Kyle Long could be considered a prelude to eventually taking over for Bushrod in the coming years.
Or perhaps the Bears eventually have a lefty under center and Long has found a permanent home at RT? Whatever the case may be, it behooves a football team to have it’s best players in the most important positions on the field. Kyle Long is definitely one of the best, so to tackle he goes.
Will Montgomery, RG
Hang with me, here. Will Montgomery hasn’t played guard in a few years but RG was his primary position coming into the league in 2006 until he was moved to center in 2011 due to injury. In that same year with the Redskins he also spent some time at LG, so the versatility is there.
The main driver here has nothing to do with Montgomery. The switch is simply part of the master plan of moving Kyle Long to tackle and putting Hroniss Grasu right into the fire as the Bears center of the future. Will Montgomery brings to the team veteran experience and knowledge of the system that Gase and Fox have been running the last two years in Denver. The fact that he played center while in Denver made him the initial guess as starter, but what it also does is make him an ideal mentor for the rookie out of Oregon.
Hroniss Grasu, C
May 8, 2015; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears center Hroniss Grasu (55) during Chicago Bears rookie minicamp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
The 2015 third-round pick out of Oregon joins fellow rookie Kevin White in this projected starting lineup. Grasu played 52 games while with the Ducks and in all 52 he started at center.
It’s his natural position and the Bears can benefit greatly in the long run by inserting him in the lineup as a rookie with Slauson and Montgomery at G to assist with the line calls and mentoring along the way. Grasu wasn’t dominant at Oregon but was solid all-around without any glaring weaknesses in his game. Being surrounded by a veteran line will help to accelerate his progression and lessen the initial learning curve.
Matt Slauson, LG
Slauson signed with the Bears before the 2013 season and started every game at LG from that point until he tore a pectoral muscle in the 2014 blowout loss to the New England Patriots in November. Injury added to insult. Slauson is all healed up now and throughout the offseason program has emerged as a vocal leader in the absence of the departed Roberta Garza. If the idea is to throw Grasu into the fire early on, Slauson’s leadership will be vital.
Oct 19, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears guard Matt Slauson (68) during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Slauson has been the Bears best lineman not named Kyle Long since joining the team and, similar to Long, he has the requisite nastiness to help this o-line create an aggressive and edgy identity. Also, for what it’s worth, he has a tremendous beard. Menacing facial hair is never a bad thing for an o-lineman.
Jermon Bushrod, LT
The obvious pick to round out the left side of the starting offensive line is Jermon Bushrod, another veteran among this group who is coming into his 9th season in the NFL. Bushrod hasn’t been a world-beater since coming over as a free agent from New Orleans in 2013, but until age or Kyle Long’s potential career trajectory move Bushy out of the lineup — staring at left tackle is where he’ll be.
Paired with the bearded one on the left side, Bushrod is a more-than serviceable LT who went to the pro bowl two straight seasons before coming to Chicago. A resurgent year may be in the offing for Bushrod in 2015 and if that plays out, Jay’s blind side will be in great shape.