Bears

Bears position battles forming along O-line

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Bears position battles forming along O-line

The final position – guard or tackle – for Kyle Long may not be determined until pads come on in Bourbonnais. He is still working exclusively at right guard, the position at which he earned Pro Bowl honors in each of his first two NFL seasons, but positions are fluid until pads come on, particularly on the offensive line.

But the Bears’ selection of Hroniss Grasu, Long’s former teammate at Oregon, sets up perhaps the more intriguing position question, albeit at a position where casual observers can have difficulty accurately determining quality of play.

It also sets up a possible position battle reminiscent of an epic one for the Bears, one that was unpleasant for both competitors for reasons having nothing to do with any problems between them.

[MORE BEARS: Ryan Pace continues scouting department overhaul]

Bears GM Ryan Pace said after the draft that Grasu can play center and guard. But Grasu’s best position is center and he is far closer to a fit there than at guard, based on the Denver Broncos template under John Fox and now-Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase. The Broncos utilize a zone-blocking scheme that requires mobile offensive linemen, particularly on the interior.

“I know we got Will Montgomery there,” Pace said. “But they’ll all be competing, all fighting for starting jobs.

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Montgomery anchored the Denver line at 304 pounds. He was flanked by two 320-pounders: Orlando Franklin and Manny Ramirez. Long played last year at 330 pounds but with an enviably low body fat percentage. He can play tackle but has voiced some feelings about wanting to stay at guard, and the chance to play alongside Grasu may strengthen that preference.

Jordan Mills, who struggled last season to the point of coaching weighing a shift of him to guard, is still the right tackle. But Denver lined up the 6-foot-7 Franklin at right tackle until last year, and he played at 330 pounds. The Bears thought enough of Tayo Fabuluje to use a sixth-round pick on the massive (6-7, 330-350 pounds) tackle and Mills will be pushed after two seasons starting alongside Long.

Former Bear Greg Olsen randomly walks into marriage proposal, catches whole thing on video

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USA TODAY

Former Bear Greg Olsen randomly walks into marriage proposal, catches whole thing on video

Scenario: you're walking down the street and randomly walk into a marriage proposal. What do you do?

For former Bear and current Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, the answer was to capture the magical moment on video. 

Olsen was in Nashville this week to give a keynote speech at a healthcare conference. While walking back to his hotel on Thursday, he randomly stumbled into a marriage proposal. His first response: hit record on his phone and capture the whole thing on video.

"Did she say yes? I got it on video, dude," Olsen said emphatically. "I'm going to send it to you!

"She said yes and I got it all on video, and you don't even know me, but I'm going to send it to you."

The couple, according to the Panthers, is Max Harvat and Brooke Hartranft. The two were visiting Nashville for the week, but Harvat didn't necessarily plan the proposal. It was as much of a sporadic moment for him as it was random for Olsen.

"Oh my god, you're my hero," Harvat said to Olsen after the proposal.

As it turns out, Harvat grew up a Panthers fan. However, he had no idea that Olsen was the person recording the proposal in the moment, only happy that someone caught it on video. When he stood up, he realized who the mystery man was.

“When I stood up, I looked over and I started having a mini heart attack," Harvat said to panthers.com. "I was like, ‘I’m 90 percent sure that’s Greg Olsen from the Panthers!’

“I'm a huge Carolina fan. I was like, ‘Oh my God, you're telling me that Greg Olsen just recorded the whole thing?’ I was so excited. It was amazing."

The moment wasn't just special for Havrat and Hartranft, though.

"It's the best thing I've ever witnessed," Olsen said in the video.

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Bilal Nichols eyes an even bigger impact for Bears in 2019

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USA Today

Bilal Nichols eyes an even bigger impact for Bears in 2019

Even if Bilal Nichols repeated his 2018 performance in 2019, the Bears would be lauded for unearthing a solid rotational player with a fifth-round draft pick. But Nichols isn’t resting on his rookie accomplishments, and is aiming to be an even more impactful player on the Bears’ defensive line as he enters Year 2 in the NFL. 

“More consistent, more dominant,” Nichols said. “That’s the biggest thing for me right now.”

Nichols was a top-50 run defender in the NFL last year, as rated by Pro Football Focus — he made a “stop” on 8.7 percent of his run defense plays, ranking 44th in the league (PFF defines a “stop” as a play that constitutes a failure for the offense). For reference, Akiem Hicks ranked eighth at 13.3 percent, Eddie Goldman was 17th at 11.6 percent and Jonathan Bullard came in 40th at 9.1 percent. 

Nichols’ biggest “stop” came in the Bears’ narrow Week 3 win over the Arizona Cardinals, in which he dropped running back Chase Edmonds for a three-yard loss on a third-and-two play inside Bears territory just after the two-minute warning. While Nichols debuted a week earlier against the Seattle Seahawks and recorded a pressure of Russell Wilson, that play against the Cardinals was critical in an important victory for the Bears. It also proved to Nichols that what he was doing was beginning to work. 

“That was really a situation where I had cut it loose and went,” Nichols said. “I knew what i was doing on that play, I knew the possible things I could get from the offense and that was just a situation where I cut it loose and just played football. And I happened to make a big play. 

“I can’t wait to do that this year.” 

Nichols, as he was figuring out how to form a routine and study opponents in the NFL after making the jump from FCS-level Delaware, played a shade under a third of the Bears’ snaps last year as part of a rotation that proved critical to the team’s defensive success. Hicks played the most snaps (780), followed by Goldman (552) and Roy Robertson-Harris (353). Nichols (328) pushed Bullard (298) to the bottom of the rotation, which helped keep members of Jay Rodgers’ unit fresh and at their most effective when they were on the field. 

The Bears’ defensive line is arguably their best and deepest unit, one which can collapse pockets and stymie opposing run games (the latter of which is especially important, given the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions’ renewed commitments to running the ball this year). Nichols was already a big part of it in 2018, and may be an even bigger part of it in 2019. 

“Last year, I was still trying to figure things out, still trying to figure the league out, figure myself out as a player,” Nichols said. “And now that I got everything figured out, I’m just able to go. I could just play and play fast and cut it loose.”