Quo Vadis Kyle Long

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune describes the action just after half time yesterday after the Bears began with a successful onsides kick:

“The Bears took over on their own 47-yard line with a chance to score and make it a field goal game. Three plays later, veteran defensive end Brian Robison swiped Kyle Long’s hands and sacked Jay Cutler to force a fumble, the second straight game a defender has come from Cutler’s right to force a turnover.

“‘It was a huge play for us,’ Robison said. ‘You definitely want to try and change the momentum back.’

“With good field position, the Vikings scored quickly as Stefon Diggs came across the middle and wasn’t accounted for in coverage (how many times have we seen that in the past month?) for a 33-yard touchdown. What could have become a 3-point game was a 24-7 game. “

Quarterback Jay Cutler give right tackle Kyle Long an irritated look after Long allows a strip-sack against the Vikings on Sunday, December 20, 2015. (NFL Gamepass)
Quarterback Jay Cutler gives right tackle Kyle Long an irritated look after Long allows a strip-sack against the Vikings on Sunday, December 20, 2015. (NFL Gamepass)

The look that Cutler gave Long after this play (above) pretty much said it all. There’s a certain amount of frustration building over Long’s play for a number of reasons.

A quick look at the Bears roster shows me these offensive linemen:

Vladimir Ducasse, G
Patrick Omameh, G
Matt Slauson, G
Nick Becton, T
Jermon Bushrod, T
Tayo Fabuluje, T
Charles Leno, T
Kyle Long, T
Hroniss Grasu, C

At tackle the Bears have the experienced Bushrod, who could be back to being a starter-quality left tackle as his back heals up. They also have Leno, who is developing into a quality left tackle and may take Bushrod’s place. In that case, Bushrod could play either side. And finally there’s Fabuluje, who has wonderful athleticism and quick feet that might make him valuable on either side (probably the right) with a year of development.

Taken together with Long, the Bears have a glut of good tackles. Long’s absence at guard, on the other hand, has made that situation problematic. Slauson is solid on the left but Omameh misses too assignments and allows too many sacks. Ducasse, whose habit of committing penalties made the overall team problem with this even worse, wasn’t even good enough to hold off Omameh in competition for the right spot. Neither option is really good enough to be a back up much less a starter.

I’m willing to be patient with Long and let him have this year and the offseason to develop. I’m willing to take the coaches’ word and that of most of the members of the media that he’s got the talent to play the tackle position. If the Bears were short at tackle, I probably wouldn’t even be questioning the decision to put him there. But its tough to watch the Bears struggle at guard when they’ve got a more tackles than they know what to do with.

Given all of the above, you’d hate to think the Bears turned a Pro Bowl guard into an average to below average tackle. I wouldn’t like to see them yanking Long around without giving him one position to work at. But I’m continuing to wonder if leaving him at right guard at the beginning of the season wasn’t the best thing to do long-term. And I’m starting to wonder if moving him back wouldn’t be best for everyone.

Perhaps the Most Worrisome Problem

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune breaks down a Stefon Diggs 33 yard touchdown pass that seemed to encapsulate the day the Bears had Sunday:

“‘I saw the ball released out of ([quarterback Teddy] Bridgewater‘s) hand and I saw Diggs coming back across the field by himself,’ [cornerback Alan] Ball said. ‘That’s when I realized we were in trouble. … A lot was going on. I need to go back and look and see how that was supposed to be played.'”

Of all the things that bothered Wiederer on this play, and there was, indeed, a lot to digest, the one thing that bugs me the most is that the Bears didn’t straighten this out immediately on the sideline. I think it should have been obvious who had who and not taking care of the problem left the Bears open to making the same mistake again.

What might be worse is if either Ball or Tracy Porter already know who was responsible but was unwilling to be accountable by pointing the finger at himself.

Either way this is a bad sign.