The Acquistion of Bobby Massie Rejuvenates Kyle Long

The Acquistion of Bobby Massie Rejuvenates Kyle Long

When reflecting on Kyle Long’s career with the Chicago Bears, Stealers Wheel classic “Stuck in the Middle With You” accurately portrays the dismal performances of the offensive linemen who have lined up next to #75:

stuck in the mid lyric 2

Despite their hard work, those players were lacking in true NFL talent. Long, though had no such problem during his two professional seasons. His talent was defined by physically succeeding on the field and displaying the mental toughness it takes for an NFL great. According to ProFootballFocus, during his first two years, Long allowed only two sacks, eleven quarterback hits, and 34 hurries in 2,094 offensive snaps. As a result, Long deservedly made the Pro Bowl his first two years, the 2013 All-Rookie Team, and 2nd team All-Pro in 2014. Long’s athletic mold and documented dominance had the Bears new coaching staff, and fans alike, begging the question: Can Long transition to tackle?

Kyle Long

Being the consummate professional and teammate that Long is he publicly welcomed the idea of a position change if it benefited the team. However, Long could not have predicted the rocky road he would endure during the 2015 season. While coach John Fox and staff had linemen practice different positions during organized team activities (OTAs), the offensive line wouldn’t see a shakeup until after the final cuts of the preseason. With the release of Jordan Mills, Long was given short notice to play right tackle Week One against rival Green Bay.

The first three weeks at right tackle weren’t kind to Long with him surrendering a sack in each of the first three games. At times, Long showed his potential at the position his coaching staff had envisioned. For example, Jay Cutler was able to stay relatively upright and clean in the pocket against Oakland’s pass rush of Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith, On the other hand, Long also had weeks where he struggled mightily with his footwork and hand placement often lunging at defensive ends bending the edge. Inside of the line, Long was able to outwork and out-physical his opponents, but outside, he had to depend on his technique to win consistently. Against both Kansas City and Denver, Long allowed six hurries each game and struggled to contain two of the NFL’s best pass-rushing units. As each week passed, the Bears coaching staff and fans realized Long’s transition to tackle was going a process and would take time. It had to be frustrating. Long had to take the positive with the negative and dedicate himself each day to improving himself. Easier said than done, of course.

Kyle Long

As reflected in his post game comments, Long’s confidence was shaken. One post-game interview with Mark Potash of the Sun-Times stands out. When asked about his struggles at right tackle, Long said:

True character is revealed in adversity and you have to remain confident. I’ve been humbled day in and day out this year playing in a new position. But it’s not a new position – I am the right tackle. I take ownership for my mistakes.”

Without context of the situation, it’s easy to say Long is manning up and taking ownership of his struggles. But his comments clearly revealed a player who hadn’t faced this type adversity. A player who knows he possesses the tools but hasn’t completely put them together to succeed at his new role. A player who thinks he is in the correct position to execute a play, yet struggles to finish.

This was new to Kyle Long. He was now facing self-doubt.

Softly in the background, the track continues, representative of the struggles Long faced…

Kyle Long

Finishing out the 2015 campaign on a solid note, the Bears coaching staff and Long were once again faced with an off-season of question marks. What position will he be at next season: right guard, right tackle? With the release of Jermon Bushrod, will Chicago consider switching Long to left tackle to protect Cutler’s blind side? All these questions were laid to rest shortly after the opening of free agency in the new league year as the Bears signed former Arizona Cardinals right tackle Bobby Massie.

2

As a result of the acquisition, Long will move back to right guard. Ryan Pace recognized the elite talent he had at guard with Long and Matt Slauson and determined building his offensive line from the inside out was the way to go.

Long took to Twitter shortly after Massie’s signing was announced confirming the move back to guard. He stated that he gets to play next to Hroniss Grasu this upcoming season and even tweeted a picture of Right Guard speed stick to LeCharles Bentley of O-Line Performance. One could see Long’s confidence back knowing he was going back to right guard.

Kyle Long

Long tweeted this picture – a sign he was moving back to his preferred position

It’s easy to be confident and carry a swagger when returning to the position you once dominated. In addition to his rejuvenated confidence, Long will have a new-found trust in his right tackle. Not even 12 hours after signing his free agent deal, Massie was back training at Bentley’s OLP with none other than Kyle Long himself. The camaraderie these two share will hopefully transfer from the weight room to the gridiron on Sundays.

Long posted this photo of his bduddy and new teammate working out

Long posted this photo of his bduddy and new teammate working out

With his move back to right guard, Long is unquestionably envisioning his return to dominance on the offensive line.

Additionally, with a year of NFL strength training, Grasu will hold the point of attack in 2016 much better than his rookie year. Massie, whose run-blocking is among the league’s finest, will improve his pass-blocking footwork and ascend to maybe, the division’s top right tackle.

And, now, Kyle Long, can whisper an old tune, but with lyrics taking on a new meaning…

Kyle Long

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Aldo Gandia

Aldo Gandia

Among my career highlights I have produced two films while in high school that received nationwide attention; leaned out of a helicopter over the Gulf of Suez at the age of 20 to shoot movies of oil rigs; won an Emmy award for a sports special and another for a kid's fitness show; and led a team of very talented creative professionals to produce break-through corporate communications.


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