All things equal, the Chicago Bears have a good offensive line in front of quarterback Mitch Trubisky and running back Jordan Howard. But there’s no denying the unit is better when Kyle Long is lined up at right guard.
Injuries have kept the three-time Pro Bowl lineman from playing at the peak of his powers the last two years, each of which has ended on injured reserve. Long had surgery in December for a neck ailment that ultimately ended his 2017 season early and told ESPN 1000-AM’s Carmen DeFalco and John Jurkovic that the shoulder problems that have given him issues the last two seasons will also be addressed during the offseason. If you’ll recall, Long passed on having shoulder surgery last offseason.
“I’ve got some minor standard-operating-procedure offseason stuff,” Long said. “But nothing major.” You can listen to the interview on the Carmen and Jurko Show here.
The Bears played musical chairs throughout the season with their offensive line and the lack of continuity showed in uneven efforts. And yet, Howard still ran for more than 1,000 yards and Trubisky’s sack percentage was trimmed in the second half of his rookie season.
Still, Long is arguably the most important offensive lineman on the roster. His absence at various points of the season led the Bears to mix-and-match at the position in an attempt to find production and continuity. Cody Whitehair, Josh Sitton, Bradley Sowell, Tom Compton, and Cameron Lee all spent time at right guard while Long was on the shelf.
So perhaps it’s no coincidence Howard averaged just 3.5 yards per attempt on his 63 carries running right in 2017. When running left, Howard gained 4.7 yards per rush. Naturally, Charles Leno Jr. and Josh Sitton – the tackle and guard tandem that often sprung Howard’s strong runs to that side – were the healthiest (and most productive) of the Bears’ offensive linemen. Getting a healthy Long back into the mix could provide balance to a rushing attack that was more consistent in 2016 than it was in 2017.