Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long shared some positive news Tuesday on Twitter.
QUICK INJURY UPDATE: I can jog now ?
— Kyle (@Ky1eLong) March 21, 2017
It’s not much, but it’s a start.
Long had surgery to repair an ankle injury this offseason, and his return to full strength is one of the storylines to watch in 2017 — especially after putting off shoulder surgery to focus on rehabbing his ankle injury. Long has proven to be one of the NFL’s best offensive linemen when healthy. Teaming with left guard Josh Sitton and center Cody Whitehair, the Bears could have a true strength along the offensive line, which could be beneficial for Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard and new quarterback Mike Glennon.
As for the rest of the roster …
- Maybe the Bears’ plan will make more sense after the draft, but for now, an unnamed NFL executive is puzzled by the team’s offseason moves. In an ESPN Insider piece by Mike Sando, the unfiltered executive explains, “The Bears’ moves are baffling to me, and I actually had no problem with the Mike Glennon signing. I don’t think they signed anyone who is really an above-average player.” This isn’t the first time this angle has been unleashed. However, this particular executive might have a point here. Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, and Prince Amukamara all graded out as average players by Pro Football Focus’ standards. Marcus Cooper and Dion Sims graded out as “poor.” The team’s most accomplished player in 2016 was safety Quintin Demps, who will be 32 in June. While the Bears’ plan was to add starting caliber players without jeopardizing the big picture, the executive puts the situation plainly when he says “I just don’t know for sure what their strategy is to be good again.”
- Ideally, the strategy to be good again revolves around nailing the draft again by finding at least three or four players worthy of starting and playing a significant positive role in 2017. Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner dives into the draft’s top-15 available edge rushers, a group headlined by Myles Garrett and featuring potential Bears draft target Solomon Thomas. Even though Thomas’ NFL position remains to be decided by his future coach and coordinator, no college football player graded better against the run than Thomas. Further, he flashed enough skills to show potential as a pass rusher. There is upside here, though a fair amount of risk for someone to be a potential top-three pick.
- Perhaps the Bears are better off picking an offensive player with a high floor to match a high ceiling. NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter has a list of seven of the safest offensive players in the draft. Four of the seven players would fit Bears’ most glaring needs, whether it be at wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, or quarterback. If the Bears can land some combination of these players, it would be the start of a productive draft.
- Whether the Bears go the risky route or play it safe, there is a growing consensus that safety is the team’s top need. Pro Football Weekly went around the league to build a consensus on what each team’s biggest needs were after the early rounds of free agency. For the Bears, it’s safety, a position that hasn’t been filled with the team’s own first-round draft pick since 1990 (Mark Carrier) or played admirably by a true playmaker in over a decade (Mike Brown). While the front seven has players with upside, the secondary still doesn’t have the kind of players who can improve upon the woeful forced turnover battle.
- Kick returner is more of a luxury than a concern, even though the team signed not one, but two return specialists on Tuesday. Both Deonte Thompson and Benny Cunningham will reportedly look to be fighting for a unique role on the 2017 roster after signing to be on the team this fall. Thompson and Cunningham both have experience as a team’s primary kick return specialist — and both have showed off high-end return skills. But neither project to be difference makers at the wide receiver or running back positions unless something dire happens.
- Even still, the Bears could stand to add talent to a roster that needs it — which means the team could possibly draft another kick returner. Albeit, the Bears will probably look for a return specialist who can be a primary contributor when he gets acclimated to his new situation situation.
- Three NFL officials with a combined 60 years of experience are stepping away from the game. Happy retirement, gentlemen. You have likely earned it after a lifetime of being yelled at by family and friends.
- Over at NFL headquarters, a list of Bears key offseason key dates. Among the ones you should circle on your calendar are dates for the start of rookie mini-camp (May 12-14), 10 organized team activities on May 23, May 30, and June 6. Get your pencils and scorecards ready to update your calendar.
- New numbers for some old Bears:
Same #Bears. New numbers.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 21, 2017