The Chicago Bears should start Kyle Long and Jordan Mills for their third preseason game on August 23. Their play against the San Diego Chargers more than warrants that thought, and praise from one Jay Cutler should all but guarantee a second start.
If the hot and cold Cutler can feel safe behind any offensive linemen and admit it publicly, then the Bears’ coaching staff has to take notice.
Long and Mills are lined up on the right side of the offensive line at guard and tackle, respectively. Kyle has been slotted at guard since day one and Jordan replaced bumbling Neanderthal J’Marcus Webb. The rookies may be short on experience, but have been able to develop chemistry on and off the gridiron.
The 1st and 5th rounders from the 2013 NFL Entry Draft were roommates at training camp and will continue to do the same during the season. As anyone can say, being around one person for most of your time awake will lead to bonding or getting to know the other person too well. Positive or negative, that time together leads to a better understanding of each other. In the case of Chicago’s right side, it has led to a trust factor that most coaches try to establish with their players.
This trust can also lead to a few more seconds in the pocket for Jay to find an open teammate. Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson were signed by Chicago to cover Cutler’s blindside to his left, while a set plan was never made for the right side until camp. When Webb decided not to take control of the right tackle position, Mills jumped in and has shown he can stick with the first team offense.
That being said, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills are still rookies. There will be bumps and missteps as long as they are in their starting roles. Long continues to be ridged coming off the line and standing upright as opposed to remaining in a less vulnerable position. Mills has been consistent and has to show that over more than 15 minutes of preseason play. While plenty of good players have been drafted in the latter rounds of the draft (Slauson- 6th, Bushrod- 4th), Mills ended up available in the 5th round for a reason. It is also important to remember that injured tackle Jonathan Scott could get healthy and pose a position threat for the Louisiana Tech alum.
Long and Mills have one week to prove that they can start game three of the preseason and for all intents and purposes opening Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Friday against the Oakland Raiders is the last extended dress rehearsal for the big show. If Long continues to flatten defenders on the second level and Mills keeps a good passing pocket, there is no reason to remove them from the starting lineup.
Bears fans need to embrace the rookie duo. Overreacting to a bad play or game from either is not allowed if fans expect them to learn and grow from their “rookie moments.” The Bears coaching staff and players have embraced and endorsed the kids to this point, so why shouldn’t you?
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