It looks like we’ll see some familiar faces in new places along the Chicago Bears offensive line in 2017.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports the Bears are exploring the possibility of a position switch with star Kyle Long, an unexpected one at that. Long, a three-time Pro Bowler (twice as a right guard and once at right tackle), might be swapping positions with left guard Josh Sitton. If you’ll recall, Sitton was a late addition to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster in his first season with the Bears after coming over from the Green Bay Packers.
If it happens, the switch will be the third of Long’s five seasons in the NFL. He was moved from right guard to right tackle prior to Week 1 of John Fox’s first season with the Bears (2015), despite spending the entire preseason at right guard. And he returned to his familiar role at right guard in 2016, after the team signed right tackle Bobby Massie in free agency.
At least Long had some fun with the news:
I'll be mixin the Gatorade and washing towels soon too https://t.co/4Q7vfwh6V6
— Kyle (@Ky1eLong) May 22, 2017
A move to left guard – a position he played briefly while at Oregon – would make 2017 the third consecutive season Long would play a new position. On the other hand, sliding over to right guard would be an old hat for Sitton, who started 64 games there for the Packers in his first five seasons.
Sitton was the Packers’ primary starting right guard during a four-year stretch from 2009 to 2012, reaching the Pro Bowl in 2012 before shifting to left guard for the rest of his stay in Green Bay. He was pretty successful there by Pro Football Focus’ standards, earning a career-best 90.1 grade in 2010 and was graded by PFF as an above average or high quality player in each of those years. Further, since moving to left guard, Sitton has been graded as a high quality player in each of the last four seasons, including being ranked as PFF’s 10th best guard in 2016.
Among the challenges Long will face at his new spot on the line is how he handles things after an injury plagued 2016 season. Long had offseason ankle surgery that stemmed from an injury suffered against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (though, he did pass on shoulder surgery). How Long pushes off on his ankle in pass sets and how he gets off the snap on run plays will be two things worth watching as training camp progresses. Unfortunately, it still might be a while, as Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times reports, before Long leaves the group of players sitting out of organized team activities because of prior injuries.
The strength of the Bears’ offensive line remains on the inside, despite the potential position swap, with three Pro Bowl-caliber players in Long, Sitton, and Cody Whitehair. Fortunately, new offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn has plenty of time to sort things out, especially with new players in the mix, such as free agent Tom Compton and fifth-round draft pick Jordan Morgan.
The team still has unanswered questions at both tackle spots, but no matter how it all shakes out, the interior offensive line still projects to be arguably the strongest position group on the entire roster.