Bears position battles forming along O-line


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.

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith helps shear a sheep at Bears community event

Roquan Smith has more sheared sheep than tackles on his stat sheet as a pro football player.

Smith and several other Bears rookies participated in a hands-on community event at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, Illinois on Monday where he assisted farm staff with the sheep's grooming. Smith said it was a first for him despite growing up around animals. 

"It's like on the norm for me though, playing linebacker you're in the trenches," Smith said of the experience.

"Shaving a sheep, I never really envisioned myself doing something like that," Smith said via "I was around animals [growing up], but it was more so cows and goats here and there and dogs and cats. I've petted a sheep before, but never actually flipped one and shaved one."

Bears rookies got up close and personal with more than just sheep.

Smith was selected with the eighth overall pick in April's draft and will assume a starting role opposite Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker this season. Here's to hoping he can wrangle opposing ball-carriers like a sheep waiting to be sheared.

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

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The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”