Oklahoma's Lane Johnson was the No. 4 pick of this year’s draft, grabbed by the Philadelphia Eagles as the third tackle snatched up in the first four picks. What may be appealing to BearsNation is that Johnson’s course to the NFL runs nearly parallel to that of Kyle Long, taken by the Bears at No. 20.
Colleagues Reuben Frank and Geoff Mosher out East at CSNPhilly.com chronicle Johnson’s background, which included a start in track and baseball. Long, who did not start playing football until his sophomore year, was drafted by the White Sox as a pitcher when he finished high school.
Johnson’s first position at Oklahoma was tight end, then defensive end. Sooners coach Bob Stoops told Reuben that Johnson’s move to offense in 2011 was the coach’s decision, not the player’s.
[MORE: Lane Johnson's Draft Capsule]
That was about the time that Long was moving from defensive end to left tackle at Saddleback C.C., opposite eventual Florida State tackle Menelik Watson, who is expected to be drafted in the second round on Friday. Long excelled at left tackle and went to Oregon at that position in 2012, although he did not start after missing early games with an ankle injury.
Notably perhaps, both Johnson and Long view their relative lacks of experience the same way.
Johnson: “My story has just begun.”
Long: "My inexperience can be looked at…in the light of I feel like I can get a lot better with coaching and with the right guys around me…”
[RELATED: Long selection highlights changes in Bears' draft philosophy]
About what you’d expect from any NFL rookie to say. But Phil Emery and the Bears clearly see Long as a Johnson-in-training, maybe a football year behind on the same track.
Which led to an NFL job as a tackle for Johnson. And for Long?
A casual guess is that Long will be the Bears’ right tackle on opening day 2014. Guard is a different position and generally considered a simpler position to learn, similar to strong-side linebacker vs. middle linebacker.
But even though Emery said the Bears will start Long out at guard, that’s a position he has not played and at 6-6, 315 pounds, is not physically well suited for. J’Marcus Webb at 330 pounds is arguably a better fit at guard, and Webb is coming out of contract after 2013. Long may indeed be a tough guy but so are defensive tackles and they will be more powerful and polished at interior play.
[MORE: Rest of NFC North opts for impact defenders]
Putting Long at guard as a simpler NFL orientation stop may backfire if he is overmatched physically. That spot did not work well at all for Chris Williams or Gabe Carimi, both tall and in Long’s weight class.
A Long asset is footspeed. That would likely serve him better at tackle than guard.