Kyle Long

Projecting what holes the Bears will have to fill on their 2018 depth chart

12-7akiemhicks.jpg
USA Today

Projecting what holes the Bears will have to fill on their 2018 depth chart

On Wednesday’s edition of the Under Center Podcast, John “Moon” Mullin and I broke down the Bears’ current depth chart, and which players on it will and won’t be back in 2018. 

The genesis of the pod, which you can listen to below, was with this color-coded depth chart:

 

Instead of a deep dive into each of these units, as we did on the podcast, this will more be a look at who those players are who are locked into roster spots in 2018. This should begin to paint a picture of where the Bears’ positions of need are heading into the offseason. 

OFFENSE
 
QB: Mitchell Trubisky
RB: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen
FB: 
WR: Cameron Meredith, Kevin White
TE: Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen
LT: Charles Leno Jr.
LG: Josh Sitton, Eric Kush
C: Cody Whitehair
RG: Kyle Long, Eric Kush
RT: 

The first point to note with any of these projections is we don’t know what the Bears offense and defense will look like in 2018 with a potentially different coaching staff in place (i.e., if that coaching staff wants a fullback). 

The biggest need on this side of the ball, clearly, is wide receiver. Meredith and White are both coming off injuries (for White, three injuries in three years), and it’s fair to wonder if they can be as productive as the Bears expected them to be this season. 

The top five receivers currently scheduled to hit free agency are Davante Adams (744 yards, 7 TDs), Jarvis Landry (699 yards, 6 TDs), Marqise Lee (637, 3 TDs), Paul Richardson (592 yards, 5 TDs) and Sammy Watkins (528 yards, 6 TDs). Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright could play their way into contracts with the Bears in 2018 — both are due to hit free agency, too — with good play down the stretch. Inman, especially, has quickly developed chemistry with Trubisky since being acquired from the Los Angeles Chargers in October. 

The Bears could also potentially see an upgrade at right tackle, depending on how they’ve evaluated Bobby Massie’s season and his potential cap savings if he’s released ($5.6 million, according to Spotrac). There will be a need to add depth behind these starting linemen — though if Kush returns healthy from a training camp ACL injury, that would be a boost. 

Not all of these offensive players are "core" guys, but Trubisky, Howard, Cohen, Sitton, Whitehair and Long should fit that designation. 
 
DEFENSE

DE: Akiem Hicks, Jonathan Bullard
DT: Eddie Goldman
OLB: Leonard Floyd
ILB: Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski
CB: 
S: Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos

Whether the Bears’ 2018 defense is a 3-4 (as run by Vic Fangio) or a 4-3 (as run by a different defensive coordinator) remains to be seen, but these eight players would fit any scheme. 

The clear need is at cornerback, with Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara becoming free agents next year. Marcus Cooper hasn’t played up to his contract and would save the Bears $4.5 million in cap room if he were released (again, per Spotrac). Nickel corners Bryce Callahan (a restricted free agent) and Cre’von LeBlanc could be back, as could special teams ace Sherrick McManis (an unrestricted free agent). Finding an upgrade at this position is a definite “must-do” for the Bears’ offseason checklist.

But so is adding at least one go-to edge rusher, regardless of scheme fit. Pernell McPhee and Willie Young aren’t guaranteed to be back, given their relative lack of production (largely in McPhee’s case), their injury histories (in both players’ cases) or their age (in Young’s case). But if the Bears pencil in Hicks and Floyd as go-to pass-rushers in 2018, they still need a third. 

The good news is Jackson and Amos proved to be a solid safety duo in 2017, and that should carry over to 2018 (Quintin Demps could return, but perhaps as a backup). Goldman has been one of the Bears’ best defensive players this year and could be in line for a contract extension in the offseason. Trevathan is a rock on this defense, too, and is another player on whom a 2018 defense can be built. 

The "core" guys in this group: Hicks, Goldman, Trevathan and Floyd. 
 
SPECIAL TEAMS

PK: 
Punter: 
Long snapper: Andrew DePaola, Patrick Scales

Pat O’Donnell will be a free agent, while the Bears’ revolving door of kickers in 2017 isn’t likely to produce a long-term solution in 2018. 
 

As Kyle Long shuts down, Bears appreciate what 'tough guy' fought through in 2017

As Kyle Long shuts down, Bears appreciate what 'tough guy' fought through in 2017

The Bears placed Kyle Long on injured reserve on Tuesday, two days after he aggravated his shoulder in a 15-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Long will miss the final four games of the 2017 season, and the Bears have not decided whether or not he’ll need surgery, coach John Fox said. 

That Long started nine games this season is, to anyone who’s been around him over the last few months, an impressive feat. His shoulder hasn’t been right in about a year, and the ankle surgery he underwent last November had some serious complications that involved significant weight loss. And with all that, he still played more than half the Bears’ schedule. 

“It’s impressive,” center Cody Whitehair said. “You know, he’s a tough guy. He’s what the Bears are all about: Tough guys that are fighting through certain injuries. So he’s going to be missed, for sure.”

While Long’s toughness should be beyond question — “he’s been through a lot, clearly,” left tackle Charles Leno added — he probably didn’t play at the Pro Bowl level the Bears came to expect from 2013-2015. Still, Fox was right in this assessment: “We were definitely a better team with him in there.” 

In shutting him down for the final quarter of the season, the hope is Long gets a head start on his recovery for the 2018 season. The Bears, which have a 12-32 record in the John Fox/Ryan Pace era, need Long at his best if they can expect a turnaround and their first winning season since 2012. 

“You could definitely tell he’s been playing through some pain,” Whitehair said. “It seems like after every block he’s grabbing something. So it’s tough to see him out but hopefully we can get him healthy.”

Bears shutting down Kyle Long for the season

klong.png
USA TODAY

Bears shutting down Kyle Long for the season

Kyle Long will end the season on the injured reserve list for the second straight year.

That's a rough birthday present for the veteran lineman who turned 29 Tuesday.

Long's shoulder issue has persisted for more than a year and finally will sideline him for the remaining four games of the 2017 NFL season. After missing only one game and making the Pro Bowl three straight seasons to start his career, Long has been unable to stay healthy the last two years, appearing in only 18 games and starting just 17.

He played eight games last year while dealing with a serious ankle injury that also lingered into 2017. Long's absence has been felt on a Bears offense that is currently struggling to find its weekly rhythm.