Bears' O-line notebook: Mills, Long review

Bears' O-line notebook: Mills, Long review

August 17, 2013, 8:45 pm
Share This Post

Cleaning out the notebook at the midpoint of the preseason.

Mills had “help” dealing with Chargers’ Freeney

The most impressive aspect of Jordan Mills at against San Diego was that the rookie right tackle set aside not only normal first-NFL-start jitters but also some admitted awe of his opponent, and proceeded to play arguably better against the likes ofDwight Freeney than he even had vs. teammates in training camp.

Of course, he had help – and not necessarily from a tight end or back, but rather the kind coaching staffs and organizations dream about.

[RELATED: Youngsters making plays for Bears' defense]

Veteran left tackle Jermon Bushrod had faced Freeney, including in Super Bowl XLIV when Bushrod’s New Orleans Saints handled Freeney’s Indianapolis Colts. Freeney was coming off a first-team All-Pro season with 13.5 sacks and was working opposite Bushrod the entire game out of the Colts’ 4-3 scheme. Bushrod held Freeney to one second-quarter sack and one QB hit, the only ones of either by the Colts that day.

Mills told that Bushrod took him aside and gave him a little intel on the tendencies of the perennial rush terror, which proved precisely accurate. The specifics are actually true “competitive” information so we’ll respect Mills confidentiality. Just suffice it to say that the Bears didn’t just improve at left tackle when they signed Bushrod.

Long's Thursday night keeps getting better

Kyle Long’s performance in his first start also got better the more you reviewed it., one of the stats analyses that the pros pay attention to, graded Long at a plus-5.2 (translation: very, very good) for his 33 snaps vs. the Chargers.

[MORE: Long, Mills make most of their opportunity]

But here’s the deal and why Long and Jordan Mills need to play very well in Oakland and also get some good work even beyond the other starters leaving vs. Cleveland in Game Four: Once the preseason ends, the Bears’ offense steps way up in class. The Chargers were 15th sacks-per-pass-play last season. The Raiders were 30th; the Browns, 19th.

But the Bears open the season against the Cincinnati Bengals, 3rd in sack percentage, and All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, tops among DT’s with 12.5 sacks in 2012.

Then the Minnesota Vikings (7th) come to Soldier Field with Kevin Williams inside, before the Bears go against one of the NFL’s perennial-best 3-4 schemes in the Pittsburgh Steelers, 8th in sack rate. Follow that with a road trip to Detroit and the defensive-tackle tandem of Ndamukong Suh (8 sacks) and Nick Fairley, and Long has the potential for seeing four of the most difficult assignment lists the NFL has to offer.