Bears’ rookie offensive linemen haven’t let mistakes disrupt progress
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter October 24, 2013 9:50PM
Cincinnati Bengals v Chicago Bears
Updated: November 26, 2013 6:43AM
Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer wants his line, especially rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, to accept that failure happens. Sacks, such as Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker’s injury-causing takedown of Jay Cutler on a stunt, will occur.
It’s moving past them — having short memories — that’s critical.
“I expect guys at times to get beaten one-on-one, but if you consistently do the same things over and over, you should have success,” Kromer said.
So much of the Bears’ offensive success can be attributed to their rebuilt offensive line, whether it’s Cutler’s career-best 91.7 passer rating or running back Matt Forte breaking long runs. And so much of the success is rooted in Long and Mills preventing mistakes from snowballing.
“You’re not going to be perfect on every play,” Mills said. “I don’t know one man who is going to be perfect. It’s knowing that you just have to take a breath and let the previous play go and go on to the next play.”
Baker’s sack of Cutler, which came through the rookies’ right side, was the only one allowed by the Bears until the last play as Josh McCown staged a rally and ultimately gave them some hope that they can compete with Cutler out.
Many things go into the line’s success. Coach Marc Trestman’s quick-decision scheme and the receivers getting open quickly help. But the line’s own development is noteworthy, considering the past failures that led to Cutler becoming the most sacked quarterback in team history and that Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Long and Mills had never played together in this system.
“The whole offensive line, you still see [mistakes] on tape at times because you’re not fundamentally sound every play because they haven’t been in the system for a year or two,” Kromer said. “But they’ve had success.
“The expectation is only that they follow the footwork that you ask and they follow the rules that you ask, and go from there.”
Pro Football Focus rates the Bears as the second-worst pass-blocking team. And pressure does change things — Mills has allowed 30 hurries, according to PFF. But the offensive line is only responsible for seven sacks in PFF’s reviews.
According to the NFL, the Bears only have allowed 11 sacks, which is tied for the second-fewest.
PFF also rates the Bears as the fifth-best run-blocking team. Forte has four runs of 20 yards or more (tied for third in the NFL as of Thursday) and three runs of 50 yards or more (first in the league).
Mills will be scrutinized for all the hurries he has allowed. But Forte’s runs of 50, 53 and 55 yards were sprung on the rookies’ right side.
The Bears are averaging more than six yards per carry on runs to the right.
Kromer said it’s too early to gauge the line’s success, saying facing 3-4 teams such as the New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins have made for a mixture of challenges. But Forte’s success is notable.
“Typically, you pick up protection first, then you get into the run techniques because the run techniques are a little bit harder depending on what the defender does,” Kromer said. “You would like to say just play harder, but that doesn’t work.”
Slauson said he has been most impressed by the rookies’ physicality but called their knack for shaking bad plays ‘‘huge.’’
“That’s another tough thing to do not only for a rookie, but for vets, too,” Slauson said. “On the offensive line, you give up a sack, that can be devastating the whole game. I thought they’ve been doing a really good job with [moving on].”