In their first NFL game that matters, Bears rookie offensive linemen Jordan Mills and particularly Kyle Long are about to step way, way up in class from anything they’ve seen this preseason, arguably even among the best of their own teammates.
The largest amount of time Long and Mills spent facing first-string defensive linemen came in the San Diego and Oakland games when the rookies were inserted into the starting lineups. The Chargers ranked 15th in sacks per pass play and the Raiders 30th.
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The Cincinnati Bengals ranked third in the NFL in sacks per pass play last season and sixth in overall yardage allowed.
Long didn’t see all that much of Henry Melton through training camp. Melton was down with a concussion by the time Long had won the No. 1 job at right guard.
The Bengals will have Carlos Dunlap at left defensive end, 6-6, 280, just about Corey Wootton size. A problem for Mills is that Dunlap was the highest graded Cincinnati defensive lineman outside of All-Pro tackle Geno Atkins, based on ProFootballFocus.com<http://ProFootballFocus.com> ratings. Dunlap finished with six sacks and a better pass-rush grade than right end Michael Johnson despite Johnson’s 11.5 sacks.
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The bigger problem comes in the form of Atkins, the only defensive tackle with more sacks (20) over the past two seasons than Melton (13).
Whereas the Bengals leave Dunlap and Johnson at their respective spots, Atkins is flipped between right and left tackle, meaning he will be singled up vs. Long based on the matchup the Bengals want.
“[Long and Mills] have done a good job of handling the pressure,” said offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer. “By far, they’re not perfect, but they’ve handled the pressure and done a solid job in the games.”