The Chicago Bears entered the 2017 season with question marks at different positions along the offense, so what’s one more, right?
Kyle Long’s status for the start of the regular season seems in limbo, based on what head coach John Fox shared with the media on Friday at Halas Hall.
John Fox on Kyle Long: "When he's back to close to himself, he'll be back in there. I can't honestly say when that's going to be."#Bears
— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) August 25, 2017
For more from Fox, you can check out his entire press conference here or check out the video embedded below.
The good news is Long hasn’t had any setbacks and continues to put in work to get back on the field sooner, rather than later, according to Fox. This is encouraging because the three-time Pro Bowler is an important part of an offensive line that is expected to be one of the best in the NFL because of its interior is a strength.
However, that might have been the only good news shared by Fox, who also noted there has been “a little bit of pain involved” as Long works toward his return to the lineup.
“I don’t want to say he’s re-inventing himself, but he’s working through it, and I appreciate those efforts,” Fox said. “When he’s back to close to himself, he’ll be back in there. I can’t honestly say when that’s going to be.”
With Long’s status up in the air, the rest of the offensive line feels the impact. Long hasn’t played in either of the Bears’ two preseason games, and might sit out the entire preseason. And while it appeared as if Long was “on target” to be ready for the regular season opener, the Bears used his absence to get others some work along the line. To prepare for the possibility of playing without Long, Tom Compton started at left guard in the preseason opener and eventually moved to right tackle later in the game. Things changed in Week 2 when the Bears shifted center Cody Whitehair to left guard and inserted Hroniss Grasu (who has been taking first-team snaps this summer) at center.
It’s worth noting that both Compton and Whitehair performed well at left guard in their trail runs. Compton earned a team-best 86.0 grade from Pro Football Focus in the team’s preseason-opening loss to the Denver Broncos, while Whitehair’s 80.4 grade against the Arizona Cardinals was also a good showing.
It’s just a small sample, but the Bears have pieced together a representative offensive line able to lead a surprisingly strong running game, thanks to Tarik Cohen. However, the unit won’t be at its best until it’s at full strength.