One takeaway from 2015: Bears' Kyle Long is an NFL tackle


One takeaway from 2015: Bears' Kyle Long is an NFL tackle

The 2015 season was preceded by a bit of uncertainty at one of the key positions on the Bears’ offensive line – tackle – and involving one of the core/foundation players within the organization – Kyle Long, who made right tackle the only O-line position, stretching over all of this season and last, to have the same player start 16 straight games.

This season is ending with a degree of certainty in both areas: Barring a windfall in the form of some team forgetting to sign one of their tackles, Long will be one of the Bears’ in 2016 and beyond. The Bears will go into this offseason with Long ensconced at right tackle despite spots of late-season difficulty, which coaches look at as a good player having a bad play rather than a bad player who had occasional good stretches.

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“I wouldn't call his season a failure by any stretch,” coach John Fox said on Friday. “Like any athlete at the pinnacle of his profession, you're going to have some days that are better than others, but I think he's performed at a really good level, to be honest with you.

“I thought last week [at Tampa Bay] was pretty good. He'll get a good test Sunday [against Detroit edge-rushers Ziggy Ansah, 13.5 sacks, and Jason Jones, 4.5), but most of his stuff is technical, kind of a comfort level with being a tackle, but I think he's done remarkably well, to be honest with you.”

While obviously owing to more than just Long, the Bears have been able to remain committed to running the football with the possible exceptions of the Washington and Minnesota II games, both losses and both part of the 0-4 record the Bears have in games with fewer than 26 rushing attempts.

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Long, who initially wanted to remain at guard and push his string of consecutive Pro Bowls to three, has been beaten for sacks but ultimately not beaten mentally in the longer term.

“I’m getting there,” Long said. “Every week I see something new. Every week I, with new opponents you learn to overcome different challenges. But I’m enjoying it. I think I’m growing not only as a football player, but also as a person through this process, because I’ve been challenged. The guys are rallying around me. They expect greatness. I expect greatness and that’s where we’re at with that.”

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.