The Bears' offensive line, in general, has had a rough season.
But Kyle Long, specifically, has had a ROUGH season.
Through the first five games of the 2019 season, analytics site Pro Football Focus ranks Long among in the bottom-5 of all NFL guards in overall offensive performance (39.7), pass-blocking (45.6), and run-blocking (40.2).
Those numbers are a far departure (like, shockingly so) from his career norms, and Long knows it.
"I know that it starts up front and there are a lot of things I can do better," he said after the Bears' 16-14 win over Denver. "A lot of blocks I’m not making, a lot of guys not accounted for. I’ll be on guys at the beginning of the play and then at the end of the play, they’re around the pile. I need to make it my personal goal to not allow my matchup to make the play. And if we all do that, and I know that everybody strives to do that, I think we’ll have success."
It hasn't gotten much better since -- though Long did miss their Week 4 game against the Vikings with a hip injury -- and now questions about Long's job security are popping up. One of the most vocal critics of Long was Bears legend Olin Kruetz, who addressed the guard's play on Sunday's Football Aftershow:
"You could make an argument that they have to take a good, long look at Kyle Long, and where he’s at, and does he need weeks off… does he need to go on IR, is Rashaad Coward a better option. If you take a really good look at the film, and this is hard for me to say, because I am a big fan of Kyle long, and I’ve watched him for a long time play a high level of football, where he was a dominant right guard… What I’ve seen in the first 3 weeks, and in this week, I wonder about his body, I really do, and I wonder where he is in his career."
There's certainly some validity to this; Long's been objectively bad this season. And while the hip injury may seem like a cause for concern, or at least cause for his subpar play, Long continues to insist that the injury isn't serious. The Bears insistence on him remaining a game-time decision for Sunday's game in London was more procedural than anything else. Still, at 30, it's not unrealistic to wonder if Long's injury history (22 games missed over the last three seasons) is starting to take its toll.
Given the Bears' lack of depth on the o-line, stashing Long on IR under the guise of a hip injury doesn't seem like a viable option -- but until Long gets back to playing at the level he and the team expects, the calls for Rashaad Coward aren't going away.