Colleague Kip Lewis and I were chatting Bears-Bills on Monday when Kip raised the question of whether there was any one thing I saw as a concern going into this first game of 2014.
Yes, there is one thing. One small thing.
It is the fifth metatarsal bone in the left foot of Jordan Mills. The second-year right tackle fractured it in warmups for last December’s Green Bay game, underwent surgery on it and had been working his way back onto the field all through the offseason. He was able to open training camp in his customary spot.
But soreness became a problem, and the Bears held him out of all the preseason games. Whether it was precautionary – Mills said as much on Monday, that he could’ve played if necessary – or an actual issue may become apparent starting next Sunday and beyond.
There are two issues with Mills’ foot:
Williams plays more left end than right and went to the Pro Bowl last year with 13 sacks. He is more of a power rusher, but with the speed to threaten the edge and then dip and power into the right tackle.
Hughes, listed at left end but taking more snaps at right, is a designed speed rusher at 254 pounds, with 10 sacks last year.
The Bills flip-flop them depending on situations and matchups. Mills has been working against Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young in practices this offseason and dismissed concerns about his foot.
“I’m very ready,” Mills said. “For the past four or five days I’ve been getting good work. Even when I was out I was getting good work with [strength coach] Mike Clark and the training and conditioning staff and in the training room. So I’m very prepared.”
Bears staff kept the limits on him strictly in place “but when I had the chance to get work in and run and lift heavy and get quality reps in, I was getting it,” Mills said. “So I don’t feel that I’m that far behind but you know we have a great defense that I go against every day that makes us better. So it’s like playing a game every practice.”