Bears Grades: Hroniss Grasu has 'great' debut at center


Bears Grades: Hroniss Grasu has 'great' debut at center

Amid the cut-off tape, shoes and bric-a-brac, the feet of left tackle Charles Leno Jr. after Sunday’s 18-17 Bears win over the Kansas City Chiefs was a game jersey. Not Leno’s; a Chiefs jersey No. 91, worn by rush-linebacker Tamba Hali, a gift from Hali to Leno, the latter a young offensive lineman who had just effectively shut out one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL.

Did Leno give his to Hali? “He didn’t want mine,” Leno said, with a very contented smile.

Kansas City edge-rush terrors Hali and Justin Houston were each limited to 2 tackles, no sacks, no quarterback hits, no tackles for loss, by Bears tackles Leno and Kyle Long.

But the Bears-Chiefs story line up front really centered around rookie Hroniss Grasu being told not long before the game that he would be starting at center in his first NFL game ever. But the game ultimately was marked by superb protection of quarterback Jay Cutler in the crucial fourth-drives on which the Bears were penalty free and sack-free.

[MORE: Bears Grades: Cutler leads Bears to another comeback win

Grasu appears to have settled the question of Bears starting future for the short term and very likely the long term.

“He was on the whole thing,” said guard Matt Slauson. “He did great, stepped in there as a rookie and I thought he did great.”

It was far from easy. Kansas City threw both their nose tackles (Dontari Poe, Jaye Howard) into multiple sets against the Bears, lined up over the gaps immediately to either side of Grasu, and in situations that Bears linemen said were unusual points on the field. Howard was able to get by Grasu in the second series to sack Cutler, leading to a fumble that was recovered for a Chiefs touchdown. The fault was not entirely on Grasu, however; guards Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse were not able to seal to the inside and exact assignments were difficult to pick out in the breakdown.

More important, breakdowns like that disappeared. Grasu may have been inactive over the first four games but he was hardly inactive Sunday or in the weeks leading up to this.

“Even when I was inactive the last couple of weeks, I was preparing like I was playing,” Grasu said. “These guys, the O-line, the whole offense, accepted me. They brought me in with open arms and they really made me feel comfortable. When we were out there, there was no panic for any of us.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Slauson returned to his familiar spot at left guard and was instrumental triggering the Bears’ silent count as well as making line calls with this being Grasu’s first NFL game of any kind other than preseason.

The center makes the initial “point” identifying the middle linebacker and other keys, communicates, and then is ready to go. But Sunday was Grasu’s first NFL moment and had enough to do with snapping the football and contending with a strong inside pass rush.

So when things changed, he didn’t always have time, particularly when the Bears were in shotgun, waiting for Slauson to tap him on the left hip to begin the snap count.

“But I do [have time],” Slauson said. “I’m watching for the ‘heel’ [quarterback lifting his heel to signal] and when I get the heel, if [the Chiefs] move, I’ve got time to call a move over here or wherever, and then give the tap.”

Moon's Grade: A-

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season,'s Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.