Chicago Bears host Cleveland Browns: 5 Things to Watch

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Nov 16, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long (75) during the third quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Bears seriously consider starting Kyle Long at right tackle?

The Bears’ failure to address the right tackle position in the offseason is coming home to roost, as candidates Jordan Mills and Charles Leno Jr. have looked atrocious in the past two preseason games. The situation came to a head Saturday, when Leno and Mills each allowed sacks, though Mills’ was negated by a penalty.

Nov 27, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears tackle Jordan Mills (67) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

While Mills has some capability in run blocking, Leno seems to be struggling in both. However, Mills’ primary issue is with speed rushers; having him at tackle, then, is a problem. In his third season now in the NFL, Mills still hasn’t figured out how to handle faster outside pass rushers, leaving Cutler at his mercy.

To make things more complicated, the Bears have what is likely a better option at right tackle by shifting right guard Kyle Long outside. A two-time Pro Bowler, the nasty Long has the aggressiveness needed for run blocking and the speed and athleticism to handle outside speed pass rushers.

The hesitancy to move Long is understandable. In Long the Bears have a stellar right guard. Why move him outside to a somewhat new position – Long took snaps at tackle in training camp – where he may not be as good, thereby weakening two positions?

But here’s the problem. The right tackle situation was so devastatingly bad Saturday night that the Bears, who were admittedly missing many of their best receiving options, were forced to rely on dink and dunk passes for the first half. Cutler was 13 of 17 for only 98 yards. I love the completion percentage. The yardage? That’s like having Todd Collins back under center. The Bears can’t afford to spend the season afraid to throw deep because Cutler doesn’t have time to throw. They need to do what they can to solve this.

Dec 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears guard Michael Ola (70) against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. The Lions defeated the Bears 20-14. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears have other options at guard: Lucas Nix was released Tuesday, but they still have Ducasse and Michael Ola, who spent much of last year as a guard. They don’t have other options at tackle, aside from Ola, who hasn’t looked great playing left tackle this year. They could even move Mills inside, where his trouble with speed rushers wouldn’t be as much of a problem and his run blocking could still be utilized.

Another issue is that the Bears have squandered the preseason in terms of getting Long actual game reps at right tackle. To the best of my knowledge, he’s had no snaps outside in a game setting. The coaches were giving Mills and Leno a chance to establish themselves. I get it. Except neither did, and now the Bears may have hurt Long by not giving him any playing time at right tackle.

That needs to change. Either start him at right tackle on Thursday, or give him extensive playing time in the middle of the game. The Bears need to settle the offensive line concerns for the offense to have any chance of improving this season.

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