I obviously meant to have this up yesterday, but time constraints didn’t allow that to happen. So here it is, a day late. I apologize for ruining your Thursday, and as always, feel free to berate me in the comments.
Jordan Mills, RT
Jordan Mills was a bit of a surprise, coming out of nowhere to win the right tackle job as a rookie in 2013. He was a fifth-round pick from Louisiana Tech, and he won the job through a combination of a strong camp showing and the new coaching staff’s desire to part ways with J’Marcus Webb.
As with the other four starting linemen, Mills had a remarkably healthy campaign; until he left early in Week 17′s loss to the Packers, he had played every offensive snap. He demonstrated a fair amount of poise and polish; according to Pro Football Focus’s numbers, he was whistled for just two penalties all season. Mills has decent size for a right tackle, as he’s listed at 6’5″, 316. He started off with a few strong performances, and some analysts started to wonder if he might be a better rookie lineman than teammate Kyle Long. But his start tempered off, and he began to get exposed in pass protection. (This is just recollection on my part, and I might be wrong, but it seemed like when the Bears brought Eben Britton in as an extra blocker, he almost always lined up next to Mills, giving him some extra help. I assume that was for a reason.)
So what sort of player can the Bears expect going forward? Did they get a fifth-round steal, or is Mills destined to be, well, something like what you’d expect from a fifth-rounder? When attempting to project him going forward, I think it’s important to remember two things. First, he was on an all-rookie side of the offensive line; in obvious passing situations, opponents were going to try to attack that perceived weak spot. Second, as to his ability to sustain good form over the course of a season, I think it’s key to note his age. Mills just turned 23 on Christmas Eve, meaning he played almost every game at 22. Kyle Long did not seem to suffer the same late-season dropoff as Mills, but though they’re both rookies, Long turned 25 in December. That makes him slightly more than two years older in terms of physical development, and probably helped Long avoid the “rookie wall” that Mills seemed to hit.
Overall, I think the Bears should be encouraged by what Mills gave them as a rookie, and there’s certainly reason to believe he’ll be able to play in the NFL. Whether he can develop fast enough to play a key role on an offensively-driven team, when there are candidates (like Long) waiting in the wings to take his spot, is another thing entirely. But for a fifth-round pick, that’s not bad at all.
Jonathan Scott, OT
Jonathan Scott has been a Bear for two seasons now, seeing plenty of time in 2012 after he replaced Gabe Carimi at right tackle. He was brought back as a swing tackle for 2013, but the run of good health for the starting o-line (and Eben Britton’s success) kept him on the bench for the entire year. Scott’s a big body, at 6’6″ 318, with just enough skill to go with that size to remain in the league since he was drafted in 2006. But when he did play in 2012, he wasn’t very effective. Now a free agent, I have a hard time seeing a need for the Bears to bring him back; they have depth ahead of him, and if they wanted a fourth or fifth tackle, I’d assume a younger and cheaper player would be a better fit. But if he remains on the market, he’s probably just an injury or two away from being called into camp.
(Side note: when I researched “Jonathan Scott”, the overwhelming search result was for Jonathan Scott of HGTV’s Property Brothers. My fiancée absolutely LOVES that show, mostly because she considers the twin brothers eye candy of the finest sort. I don’t see it, but they can certainly renovate and sell a house.)
Joe Long, OT
The Bears signed Joe Long in December off of the Steelers practice squad. He was an undrafted free agent in 2012, and he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game, so it’s hard to project his future one way or the other. I will say that his presence is one of the reasons I don’t see the Bears bringing back someone like Jonathan Scott. I’ll also say that Joe Long is not related to Kyle Long, but he IS the brother of Jake Long, the Rams offensive tackle. (And former Pro Bowler with the Dolphins.) The Rams also have Chris Long, who is of course Kyle Long’s brother. So, to recap: the Bears have Kyle and Joe Long, the Rams have Jake and Chris Long.
Not confusing at all.