By Bryan Dietzler
If you are a Bears fan and have been paying close attention to what the team has done this year, you will already know that offensive lineman Kyle Long made a position switch at the beginning of the season. After playing his first two seasons in Chicago at the guard position, the team asked him to move to the right tackle position and it was thought that he would excel there. It is not known if Long was resistant to the idea or not but knowing how Long is, he was probably more than willing to help his team out in any way possible and if that meant that he had to switch positions then so be it. It’s more than likely he was more than happy to do this.
Looking back on this now, what has the transition meant for Long and the rest of the team in general? What has it done to the offensive line? We are going to take a look at Long’s transition to the right tackle position, try to discover if it was the best move for the team and Long in general and where will he be next year.
The transition time for Long to move to right tackle was very short. He was told about the move just a few days before the Bears first game of the season (against the Green Bay Packers) and didn’t have much practice time at the position before he was thrust into it by the coaching staff against the Packers. In his first game as a right tackle, Long seemed to play well and didn’t give up too much in terms of bad plays or sacks. It appeared as if Long might indeed be suited to play the tackle position after all.
As the season wore on, problems in Long’s play began to surface. He began to struggle protecting the quarterback and he started to be called for penalties such as holding calls and false starts. This was evident in several games as Long’s overall ability decreased, his penalty count went up and his ability to protect the quarterback went down. It would appear as if Long (ironically like the rest of team is doing right now) is regressing in his play at the right tackle position and is in fact getting worse. This is not good for Long or the Bears.
While at the guard position over the course of his first two seasons with the Bears Long made the Pro Bowl in both of those years. He was an outstanding and very effective player at the guard position and did very well both pass blocking and run blocking. Long actually came to the Bears without much college experience as a starter and was drafted rather high (he was a first round pick) but developed into a solid guard and was (and still quite possibly is) the best athlete on the Bear’s offensive line.
The decision to move Long to right tackle came after the Bears let go of former starter Jordan Mills. They cut him late in the pre-season and then made the decision to move Long to Mills’ old position. They did this out of necessity but saw the athleticism that Long displayed and figured that he would be an ideal fit at the right tackle position.
Is Long an ideal fit at the guard position but may not be a good fit at the right tackle position? He has struggled there in recent games and may have shown the coaching staff enough to determine that he is not the correct fit at the right tackle position. So will the Bears decide, in the offseason, to move him back to guard? How will they fill their right tackle position needs if they do indeed move Long back to guard? Will they actually move Long back to guard in 2016?
This writer feels that the Bears are going to evaluate Long in the offseason and determine that the best move for him and the team is to move him back to guard. They can then draft a right tackle or find one through free agency and shore that position up finally. The Bears need to spend some time fixing their offensive line as a whole this offseason and drafting or signing a right tackle and moving Long back to the guard position would be a big benefit for this team in helping to go a ways to fix the offense.
So look for Long to move back to his original position and excel there come next season. It’s likely he will regain his Pro Bowl form moving back to the guard spot and will become a solid performer on the offensive line once again. The Bears will spend some time, effort and money to shore up the right tackle position with another player during the offseason and finally get that spot taken care of. Perhaps just a tweak or two more and the offensive line will be in good shape for 2016.