Kyle Long

Bears Notes: Nagy, Howard, Long

The Bears and Ravens will square off in the Hall of Fame Game on August 2, so they are the only two teams whose training camps are already underway. Bears camp officially opened on Friday, so let’s take a look at a few notes out of Chicago:

  • Bears fans are excited about the innovations that new head coach Matt Nagy will bring to the offensive side of the football, and Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times believes that excitement is well-founded. Nagy has a great deal of young talent at his disposal, and while much of that talent is unproven, the club certainly has the chance to turn some heads this year. Nagy’s offense is expected to blend Andy Reid‘s West Coast offense with the run-pass options that offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich learned under Chip Kelly at Oregon, and it will certainly include creative formations and shifts. Nagy is also open to innovating and experimenting throughout the course of the season as he adjusts to life as an NFL head coach.
  • One key component of the offense, running back Jordan Howard, is making a concerted effort to improve his hands so that he can become a reliable contributor in the passing game, as Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune details. Indeed, Nagy’s offense frequently utilizes running backs as pass catchers, so Howard, who has not offered much as a receiver in his first two years in the league, needs to refine his abilities. For what it’s worth, Nagy believes that Howard can be a true three-down back. Nagy said, “There’s this notion that [Howard] is just a first-and second-down back, and I don’t believe that. Jordan can play all three downs. We’re going to do that. We’re going to use him, and we’re going to use other guys on first and second down when we need to.”
  • In a separate piece, Campbell describes the importance of offensive lineman Kyle Long — who suddenly finds himself as the offense’s second-oldest player — to the Bears’ rebuild. There are a lot of intriguing new and relatively new offensive pieces at the skill positions, but those pieces cannot come together to reach their collective potential without a strong offensive line in place. Long, whose career started out with three consecutive Pro Bowl nods, has finished each of the last two seasons on injured reserve. However, Campbell reports that Long is as close to full health as he has been in two years, and that is critical not just for the Bears’ chances in 2018, but for both player and team from a contractual standpoint. After this season, Chicago could cut Long and save $5.5MM against the cap, so the next few months will go a long way towards determining Long’s future in the Windy City.
  • Kevin White, who entered the league as a 2015 top-10 pick with a ton of promise, has seen the first three years of his professional career ravaged by injury. The Bears declined his fifth-year option earlier this offseason, so he will enter the last year of his rookie contract with a lot to prove. As Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, White has a good chance of making the team’s roster out of training camp, but given the talent that Chicago has added over the past several seasons, he will need to perform very well in camp and in the preseason to earn significant playing time. Finley reports that White looks as good as ever from a physical standpoint, and the fact that he can line up anywhere on the field in Nagy’s offense will only help his cause.

Bears’ Allen Robinson Won’t Go On PUP

New Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson has not participated in most of the team’s offseason program as a result of last year’s torn ACL. However, coach Matt Nagy says he’ll be ready to roll as the team reconvenes and will not open camp on the PUP list (Twitter link via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune). 

The Bears signed Robinson to a $14MM/year contract this offseason and they are banking on him becoming their top offensive target this year. Robinson’s 2017 was a lost cause, but the Bears believe that he can get back to his 2015 form, a season in which he had 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Even as he regressed in 2016, Robinson still finished out with 73 grabs for 883 yards and six TDs, so his floor is fairly high, provided that he can stay healthy.

Nagy also indicated that offensive lineman Kyle Long will be cleared for camp. Long missed a significant portion of last season and underwent shoulder, elbow, and neck procedures, but it sounds like he’s on track to play in Week 1.

The Bears went 5-11 last year and finished with the worst record in the NFC North. After retooling their offense and using a top ten pick on linebacker Roquan Smith, the Bears are feeling optimistic about their chances in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears Rumors: Long, Lynch, Floyd, Burton

While franchise tag situations understandably dominated the day, here’s a look at one of the teams that didn’t take part in a summer standoff. Latest out of the Windy City:

  • Kyle Long‘s dealt with a string of injury problems in recent years. He underwent three more surgeries this offseason, but the Bears expect their top offensive lineman to be cleared in time for training camp, J.J. Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago notes. Long missed all of camp last season and the first two Bears games before suffering a season-ending injury that shelved him for most of Chicago’s December schedule. Shoulder, elbow and neck procedures followed, but they don’t look to be the kind of impediments Long dealt with in 2017 as he attempted to recover in time for the regular season. Long hasn’t played more than 10 games in a season since 2015. Veterans report to Bears camp July 19.
  • The Bears hope Aaron Lynch‘s history with Vic Fangio can translate to the kind of consistency that would make the former 49ers edge defender a reliable part of Chicago’s outside linebacker corps, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune notes. Hamstring and ankle injuries limited Lynch with his new team this offseason, and Kane considers him on the bubble to make the Bears. Lynch is attached to a one-year, $4MM contract. He played in just 14 games the past two seasons, restricted by injuries and a suspension, and recorded just 2.5 sacks in that span. He registered 12.5 during his first two seasons in the league, the first of which as a part of Fangio’s final 49ers defense.
  • After undergoing surgery to repair damaged the MCL and PCL in his right knee, Leonard Floyd also expects to be full-go by Bears camp, per Kane. With Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston off the roster, the Bears will need more from Floyd. Sam Acho, Jonathan Anderson and Kasim Edebali represent the non-Lynch veterans who could start opposite Floyd.
  • Trey Burton, though, may have a more important role on the 2018 Bears, with Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times ranking the former Eagles backup atop the list for players most vital to the team’s prospects this season. Despite Chicago investing more in Allen Robinson, and Mitch Trubisky obviously playing a more critical position, Jahns lists Burton in this slot because of his importance to Matt Nagy‘s offense. The Chiefs have run their attack through Travis Kelce for years, and Burton will be playing that role in Chicago. The Bears added Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller to their passing game, but Jahns writes Burton will do the most to elevate Trubisky’s comfort level. Burton has career-high marks of 37 receptions and 327 air yards — both in 2016.
  • Roquan Smith will be staying away from the Bears, whose rookies reported Monday, while his agent finalizes his rookie contract.

NFC Notes: Manning, Solder, Bears, Seahawks

Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long has missed 14 total games over the past two seasons, and the three-time Pro Bowler underwent neck, shoulder and elbow surgeries this past offseason. Naturally, the 29-year-old was limited during his team’s OTAs last month. However, Long still found a way to help his fellow linemen.

“He really wants to be good,”said the team’s new offensive line coach, Harry Hiestand (via Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune). “He’s fun to be around. He comes in the meeting room every day with a smile on his face, looking forward to working. He’s very interested in helping the other guys. After I’ll say something, the meeting will break and they’ll be walking out to get a break and he’ll be talking out there with the young guys. That part’s been really good about him.”

The offensive guard is confident he’ll be good to go during training camp, and he’ll be hoping to improve a Bears line that allowed 39 sacks last season.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Following Kam Chancellor‘s unofficial retirement, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks will surely eye the free agent safety market, a grouping that includes Eric ReidKenny Vaccaro or Tre Boston. However, as the writer notes, the Seattle front office had anticipated Chancellor’s decision, and several of their offseason moves operated under the assumption that the veteran wouldn’t be with the team in 2018. The team currently has three starting-caliber safeties in Earl Thomas, Bradley McDougald and Maurice Alexander. Of course, as Condotta notes, if Thomas is traded or decides to hold out through the start of the regular season, the team will definitely need to add some depth at the position.
  • Instead of taking one of the highly-touted quarterback prospects, the Giants ended up opting for running back Saquon Barkley with the second-overall pick in this past year’s draft. Eli Manning recognized his team’s decision to not take his eventual replacement, and he’s aiming to prove their decision right. “It was kind of a vote of confidence in that they trusted in me that I can play at a high level, can win games, take us deep in playoffs and win championships and win championships still,” Manning said during an appearance on SiriusXM’s “The Opening Drive.”And you know what? I want to prove them right and I want to make them look smart and make them to have made the right decision in doing that. I want to go out there and do great things, do my job and lead this team and make guys around me better and do what I’m supposed to do to put us in position to win those games.”
  • Manning also touched on his team’s addition of left tackle Nate Solder, who the Giants added on a four-year, $62MM deal this past offseason. “He knows how the offensive line is supposed to work together as a group,” Manning said. “He has them in there early, has them eating lunch together, has that (bond), (which) I always thought was most important with offensive line. It’s not having the five best players at each position. It’s having five guys that just work together. They communicate, they’ve got a toughness about them, they’ve got a pride in their job and being able to get that third-and-two, being able to run the ball, being able to pass protect and give us enough time and pick up the stunts and the blitzes. So I think he’s kind of bringing that attitude to this group.”

Bears Expected To Sign Earl Watford

Earl Watford visited the Bears on Monday, and that that summit is expected to lead to a contract agreement. The Bears are expected to sign the UFA offensive lineman, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports.

A Watford signing would reunite him with former Cardinals line mates Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell, while supplying depth to the Bears’ offensive front.

With the Bears having released Josh Sitton earlier this offseason, and Kyle Long enduring more three more surgical procedures this offseason (story via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com), there’s a route to the starting lineup for Watford. The former fourth-round Cardinals pick started nine games for the Cards last season and 11 in 2016. The Jaguars initially signed Watford last March but released him later in the year, and he wound up back in Arizona.

Chicago does not have an obvious replacement for Sitton on its current roster, and Watford would bring the most experience among the candidates to start at left guard opposite Long. Eric Kush and 2017 fifth-rounder Jordan Morgan are also expected to be in that mix, per Biggs, adding that Watford could be a candidate for a swing role if he’s beaten out for a starting spot. Both Kush and Morgan underwent surgery in recent months, and Long will not participate in OTAs, per Biggs.

Pro Football Focus has graded Watford as one of the worst full-time blockers in the game over the past two seasons, however, but the 27-year-old James Madison product has made 22 starts over the past three years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Browns, Bears, Mosley, Cooter

Having already been connected to Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, the Browns are midway through an all-hands-on-deck offseason when it comes to their quarterback choice. However, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com reports the Browns may not be dismissing a Baker Mayfield pick. Multiple evaluators informed Robinson that the Browns are going to be down to Darnold or Mayfield.

A lot of what he is as a player fits with the mentality of John Dorsey,” one source told Robinson from the Senior Bowl. “Just his mental makeup as a player, John believes in building around those kinds of guys. … I think he’s a strong candidate [for the top pick] after this week.”

The 6-foot passer has been mentioned the least among the top quarterbacks as being a viable option at No. 1 at this point in the pre-draft process, but Dorsey said this week there could be “four or five” prospects the team could target atop the draft. While Mayfield’s character issues are still cropping up this week, it’s looking clear he will be picked in the top half of the first round. Robinson notes former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan serves as one of Dorsey’s top sounding boards, and McCloughan’s been pro-Mayfield for a while. Another source noted Dorsey’s past with the Packers during the Brett Favre era could apply here, given Mayfield’s gunslinger style and sometimes difficult off-field persona. Nevertheless, it would quite the leap for Mayfield to rise to the top of the draft over passers who have long been viewed as better prospects.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions:

  • C.J. Mosley has no designs on leaving Baltimore. One of numerous 2014 first-round picks to be stuck in fifth-year option limbo, Mosley is eyeing a career that ends with him being ranked as the second-best linebacker in Ravens history, he said (via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). The Pro Bowl inside ‘backer expects something to get done regarding an extension. Mosley is set to make $8.718MM next season.
  • The Lions are going to have an entirely new defensive staff under Matt Patricia and already parted ways with quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan, who became a coveted commodity this week. But the expectation remains Patricia will retain OC Jim Bob Cooter, Kyle Meinke of MLive.com notes. While the Lions have struggled on the ground under Cooter, finishing 32nd twice during his two-plus-year tenure running the offense, Matthew Stafford‘s had his best run of seasons during Cooter’s time in Detroit.
  • An internal debate’s being waged at Bears headquarters as to whether Cody Whitehair will function better as a center or guard, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes, adding this process will impact whether the team picks up Josh Sitton‘s 2018 option. Whitehair has played both spots, receiving most of his work at center, while Sitton is a pure guard. The soon-to-be 32-year-old blocker is due to count $8.57MM against the Bears’ 2018 cap if the team picks up his option.
  • Another possible factor working in Sitton’s favor for a third Bears year is the Kyle Long‘s suddenly injury-prone status. Biggs reports Long will undergo multiple surgeries this offseason. Long played in 10 games this past season after an extensive rehab process didn’t end until after the 2017 campaign began.

Bears Place Kyle Long, Mitch Unrein On IR

As expected, the Bears have placed right guard Kyle Long on injured reserve. Defensive end Mitch Unrein has also been shut down for the year. Kyle Long

On Tuesday morning, coach John Fox indicated that this was a likely outcome for Long. It’s undoubtedly a frustrating end to the year for the veteran. Last year, he suffered a painful leg injury in the eighth game of the season. This time around, it’s a shoulder malady that will keep him from the field in the final month of the season.

Unrein was starting for the Bears at defensive end, so they’ll have to turn to reserves Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris for support. The Bears are also expected to add a bookend to the mix.

In 12 games this year, Unrein recorded 31 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Pro Football Focus, which has Unrein listed as an interior defender, gives him a career-high 83.9 score for his work this year. That’s good for No. 29 among all interior defenders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bears May Shut Down Kyle Long

Kyle Long‘s season could be over. The Bears could park the offensive guard on the bench after he exited Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. Kyle Long (Vertical)

I think that’s a possibility,” coach John Fox said (via Patrick Finley of the Sun-Times). “Again I don’t want to say yes, I don’t want to say no at this point.”

It’s a lost season for the 3-9 Bears, so there’s not much reason to keep Long on the field in light of his lengthy injury history. Last offseason, Long underwent ankle surgery after he “tore everything but his Achilles.” This year, he continues to deal with pain in that area plus a nasty finger injury. He has managed to play in more than 62% of the Bears’ snaps this season, but his 73.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus is a career low.

Long is under contract with the Bears through 2021 thanks to the four-year contract extension he signed with the Bears last fall. He is scheduled to carry a $8.848MM cap number in 2018.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Long, Browns, Lions, Harrison

Kyle Long will return to action Sunday after missing 10 games, between the 2016 and ’17 seasons, with a severe ankle injury. The veteran Bears guard shed some light on why the recovery took so long after the November 2016 setback. Long said (via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune) he “tore everything but his Achilles” during a gruesome sequence in the Bears’ eighth game last season. This included four ankle ligament tears. No broken bones occurred, but this induced the lengthy rehab process. It’s been more than 10 months since the Bears’ three-time Pro Bowl blocker stepped on a field for a game. Long’s father, Hall of Famer Howie Long, said he should have started training camp on the PUP list to prevent from attempting to come back too early.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions as its teams make final preparations for their third regular-season games.

  • Kenny Britt‘s Browns tenure has not started off well. The 29-year-old wide receiver has just two receptions for 15 yards, on five targets. Recent practice squad promotion Rashard Higgins more than doubled Britt’s season target figure in Week 2. When the Browns signed Britt to a four-year, $32MM contract in March, an anonymous NFL executive told cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto the deal came with risk because Britt could become an “attitude problem.” Pluto characterizes Britt as having trouble in this department while with the Titans before re-routing his career with the Rams with a 1,000-yard season in 2016. Now paid handsomely by a non-contending team, Britt has an uphill battle to prove he’s worth the investment. The bulk of Britt’s guaranteed money will be paid out this season, but the ninth-year veteran’s 2018 dead-money figure is higher than the cap savings that would come the Browns’ way with a release.
  • DeShone Kizer left last weekend’s game due to migraine headaches. Pluto notes the Browns were aware of this trouble, but since the issue never impeded the quarterback during a game at Notre Dame, the Browns didn’t deem it a medical red flag. A waiver claim last year, 2016 fifth-round pick Kevin Hogan came on in relief of Kizer and has usurped Cody Kessler for the backup job.
  • Teryl Austin‘s been a frequent visitor for teams seeking head coaching interviews in recent years. He met with the Chargers in January and spoke with the Browns, Dolphins, Giants and Eagles in 2016. The veteran Lions DC has yet to receive a chance to lead a team, and while Austin said last year he felt only two of his 2016 interviews were legitimate, some teams may have had issues with the DC’s ideas for a staff, Kyle Meinke of MLive.come notes. However, Meinke adds Austin has rectified those seemingly minor concerns, and teams “love the way he’s interviewed.” If the Lions turn in a solid defensive performance this season, Meinke envisions the 52-year-old defensive mind landing a coaching gig in 2018.
  • When T.J. Watt went down with a groin injury in Week 2, Anthony Chickillo, not James Harrison, replaced the rookie. The Steelers have Harrison his first DNP-CD since 2003, and the 39-year-old linebacker addressed these concerns this week. “Just doing what I’m asked,” Harrison said, via Chris Adamnski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You’re not going to get any other answer than that. So if you have any other questions about playing time, you ask coach T (Mike Tomlin).” Tomlin said Chickillo’s insertion into the game came because he wanted to “leave the hot hands in there.” Harrison started seven games last season and rated as one of Pro Football Focus’ best edge defenders. Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter said earlier this year he plans to use Harrison as a relief pitcher of sorts despite the two-year deal the outside ‘backer signed in March. The franchise is following through with that plan so far.

NFC North Notes: Vikings, Long, Bears

The Vikings outbid multiple suitors to sign Kyle Sloter to their practice squad, and the move ended up seeing the former college wide receiver promoted to the active roster in advance of Week 2. In addition to the Broncos, the Vikings presented a better offer than the Redskins or Bills in order to land Sloter, Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com reports. A wide receiver at Southern Miss before a transfer to Division I-FCS Northern Colorado put him loosely on the quarterback radar come UDFA signing time, Sloter played extensively for the Broncos during the preseason. John Elway hoped the Broncos could pass him through waivers to Denver’s practice squad, but the GM preferred more experience to start the season. This led to the Broncos’ decision to reunite with Brock Osweiler for the time being.

Sloter’s active-roster contract won’t pay him much more than his practice squad agreement, since the latter deal is on the higher end of such accords, and the pact is nonguaranteed, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. He did not receive a signing bonus.

Despite the insurance addition, Sam Bradford is still expected to start against the Steelers. Case Keenum resides as his backup. Here’s more from the NFC North.

  • The Bears will be without Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long for a second straight game to start the season. The team announced Long did not travel to Tampa Bay for the Bears’ Week 2 game. Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune notes (on Twitter) the Bears are hoping Long returns in Week 3. Long has not played since November of last season. A right ankle injury ended Long’s season, and the subsequent recovery process has now reached the 10-month mark. Prior to Long’s ankle injury, he’d missed one game out of a possible 56. Tom Compton started at left guard last week against the Falcons.
  • Michael Floyd‘s activation after a four-game suspension could make for an interesting roster decision, with Tomasson noting (Twitter link) the Vikings would prefer to keep wideout Rodney Adams on the roster. A rookie fifth-round pick out of South Florida would seemingly be vying with a player of a similar profile to stay on the roster after Floyd returns. Seventh-round rookie Stacy Coley, out of Miami, serves as Minnesota’s other other newcomer wideout. Coley, though, played in Minnesota’s Week 1 game while Adams was a healthy scratch. Jarius Wright and 2016 first-rounder Laquon Treadwell are the second-stringers.
  • The Vikings’ preference for Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris led to Antone Exum being the odd man out when it came time to clear a spot for Sloter, Tomasson tweets.
  • Second-round Lions pick Teez Tabor is making progress, but the former Florida cornerback might not be in line to see much action for a while.
  • A 15-game starter for the Packers last season, Ladarius Gunter is now employed by another team. The Panthers claimed the third-year UDFA on waivers.