Bears OL puzzle clearing with release of Mills, likely change for Long


Bears OL puzzle clearing with release of Mills, likely change for Long

Throughout this offseason an ongoing evaluation drama was playing out on the right side of the Bears offensive line. On Sunday it reached at least a temporary (and only apparent) conclusion.

The Bears waived third-year right tackle Jordan Mills and put a waiver claim in on Tampa Bay Buccaneers right guard Patrick Omameh, setting the course for the possible shifting of two-time Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long to right tackle.

“Possible” because Omameh was playing primarily at right guard but has worked at tackle, albeit not well enough at either position to convince the Buccaneers that he was a viable part of the protection for rookie quarterback Jameis Winston.

[MORE: Notable names remain for now on Bears roster]

Mills had the Bears right tackle job in his control once he managed to shake off the effects of foot surgery following the 2013 season. Mills started three of the four preseason games at right tackle, including game four vs. Cleveland last Thursday, but failed to make a convincing statement for coaches who have made clear their intentions to run the football in 2015.

Best guess is that coach John Fox keeps the Green Bay Packers waiting until just before game time before announcing who his starters are at right guard and tackle. Whether Omameh, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2013 with the San Francisco 49ers, or Vladimir Ducasse, who played most of the Cleveland game at right guard, steps in with the No. 1 unit, likely won’t be set until lineups are announced next Sunday when the Bears take the field to face the Packers.

“As [Fox] said, it’s never too late [to make changes].” Long said last week. “It’s like, if you’re working on a 300-piece puzzle and you can’t figure out which pieces to go where, it might be the end of the puzzle before you figure out, ‘Oh, there’s that piece for there.’ So we’re not really worried about that.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The feeling within the organization is that Long, entering his third NFL season, has the stuff to be an elite lineman at either guard or tackle.

The move has appeared to be coming during various points of the offseason even as Long remained primarily at guard. NFL-grade tackles are never easy to find and the Bears were conspicuously adding possibilities at guard and not at tackle, which was addressed only with a seventh-round draft pick of Tayo Fabuluje.

At guard, however, additions with NFL experience were coming in. Ducasse, who started games for the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings, was signed on Mar. 16. Will Montgomery, who played for John Fox and coordinator Adam Gase with the Denver Broncos, was signed Apr. 2, which was followed by the Bears investing their third-round draft pick in center Hroniss Grasu. Both Grasu and Montgomery were described as capable of working at guard despite being undersized for the position.

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived 16-game starter Omameh on Saturday and the Bears followed by claimed him, the Bears’ course was set. Omameh was part of a woeful Bucs offensive line charged with 52 sacks last season, moving Tampa Bay to use two second-round picks on offensive linemen.

Omameh was tried at right tackle but failed to impress and enough to be kept as a swing man for Lovie Smith and the line entrusted with protecting Winston.

NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots


NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

The great Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Talladega Nights hit a little too close to home for the Bears in Week 7.

They came into Sunday at 3-2 at the top of the NFC North. After a 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots, they dropped to the bottom of the division.

The Detroit Lions defeated the Miami Dolphins 32-21 to improve to 3-3, leaving them tied with the Bears in the cellar.

The Minnesota Vikings’ 37-17 victory over the New York Jets jumped them to 4-2-1 overall and first place in the division over the 3-2-1 Green Bay Packers, who were off for their bye week.

The NFC North remains the most tightly contested division in the NFL, the only one with no teams under .500 through seven weeks of the season.

The final standings may not be decided until Week 17, and the Bears have already blown the early season cushion they built for themselves while the Vikings and Packers were struggling.

The divisional action will pick up in November, and Chicago only has a pair of games left to put it all together before back-to-back-to-back games against the Lions, Vikings and Lions again.    

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots


Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

Matt Forte, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Laurence Holmes to break down the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots. What happened to the Bears defense over their bye week, and how did the special teams struggle so bad against New England? Plus – the guys debate Mitchell Trubisky’s decision making in the red zone and Matt weighs in on how the Bears should play his former team – the New York Jets – next week.

0:35– Special teams to blame for loss?

4:12– Where did the Bears pass rush go? 

5:27– Bad tackling followed Bears from Miami

7:25– Are the coaches to blame for the defense after the bye?

10:10– Evaluating Mitchell Trubisky’s game

11:55– Agree with Matt Nagy on Mitch’s “mental” game?

13:30– Trubisky’s red zone decision making

17:10– Are the Bears giving away games so Mitch can learn?

18:00– Bears need to run the ball more

21:04– Matt Forte scouts his former team, the New York Jets

Listen to the full podcast here or in the embedded player below.