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Oct 19, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long (75) during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Will Moving Kyle Long To Right Tackle Stabilize The Offensive Line?

The somewhat surprising, but warranted, release of former right tackle Jordan Mills last week paved the way for Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long to shift outside to tackle, a move that is long overdue.

As of this writing, the Bears have yet to formally announce that Long will start at right tackle, but all signs point to him moving outside. Mills, who started at right tackle the past two years, struggled mightily in the preseason, especially in pass protection. He was in direct competition with Charles Leno Jr., who also struggled. Leno’s athleticism, though it doesn’t always translate to solid play, allows him to be an option as the swing tackle, which is why he was kept on the roster. Mills was cut loose.

At guard, though, the Bears have options after moving Long to tackle, although none are overly desirable.

Long has made two Pro Bowls as a mauling guard. Moving him outside will hurt the interior of the Bears’ offensive line, but the team can still take advantage of his stellar run blocking when he plays tackle, while his athleticism — which quarterback Jay Cutler described in great detail to ESPN — should allow him to handle speed rushers on the outside.

That being said, the Bears made a particularly egregious error by not giving Long any game time at tackle during the preseason. He practiced there during training camp, but failing to get him game reps did Long and the Bears’ offense a disservice.

Now, the first test Long will get is when Matthews or Peppers or a defensive end comes screaming off the edge in a game that actually matters, rather than in a meaningless preseason game. As Long learns to play tackle, he’ll have to do it in situations where his mistakes – and there will be some as he learns a harder position – count against the Bears in regular season games.

Some of these mistakes could have occurred in the preseason, where Long could learn from them and be ready for the season. Now it’s too late, the real games are here.

Oct 12, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings guard Vladimir Ducasse (62) blocks against the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Lions win 17-3. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

At guard, the Bears could start veteran Vladimir Ducasse or the recently acquired Patrick Omameh, both of whom have started in their NFL careers. Neither are likely Pro Bowl candidates, but having them line up at guard and Long at tackle offers better pass protection options than keeping Long at guard and starting Leno at tackle.

In the preseason, Leno proved as much a turnstile as Jermon Bushrod is at left tackle; having Bushrod in is bad enough. The Bears need to go with Long at tackle, particularly for pass protection reasons.

The long-range possibility for this season is starting Hroniss Grasu at center and shifting Will Montgomery to right guard, but Grasu isn’t there yet. A third-round pick out of the University of Oregon, Grasu at times looked flat-out outmatched in the preseason. He needs to get stronger before the Bears entertain the option of starting him at center, allowing Montgomery to shift to guard.

Shifting Long to tackle may not solve all the Bears’ offensive line problems, as the other options at right guard are still relative unknowns with the Bears, but starting Long at tackle should go a long way toward settling the unrest along the front line.

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