With the rookie edge rushers and offensive tackles analyzed in depth, we’re moving to the interior of the offensive line. In recent years, we’ve seen more guards and centers drafted in the first round, with two guards going in the Top-10 a year ago in Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack. Unfortunately, Cooper never took a regular season snap after going down to injury during the preseason but Warmack, as well as fellow first round guard Kyle Long started every game for their respective teams.
We also saw the emergence of our Rookie of the Year, Larry Warford, who more than solidified one of the guard spots in Detroit. He clearly stood out as the best of the rookie interior linemen, all the more impressive considering the learning curve often associated with the position. Here’s a look at all of the rookie interior linemen.
This is by no means a definitive draft grade on any of these players, just a one-year look at their role and production, and perhaps a look forward to how they might improve.
Round 1, No 20. : Kyle Long, Chicago Bears
Role: 16 Starts at RG
We may have been as guilty as anyone in starting the Kyle Long hype train as he was our top-graded guard during the preseason. While he did show that early promise, he did take a step back during the regular season on his way to finishing at -3.3 overall to rank 43rd among guards. He was hit-or-miss during the season, posting grades of at least +1.0 in five games but also notching seven games of -1.0 or worse. He’ll be searching for consistency as he heads into his second year.
Pass Block Snaps: 664
Total Pressures: 32
Pass Blocking Efficiency: 96.1
While the Bears improved their sack totals on offense, they still gave up a fair amount of pressure. Long played next to fellow rookie Jordan Mills who had his struggles as well. Like Warmack’s issues with the bullrush, Long’s weakness was to his outside shoulder where he gave up 50 percent of his pressures. He did show improvement in the second half of the season as he graded at +2.5 over his last eight games.
Long gives up the outside:
Run Block Snaps: 406
During the preseason, Long showed well when asked to block on the move and in space, but that wasn’t always the case during the regular season. He wasn’t particularly effective when asked to pull, though it wasn’t a huge part of the Bears’ running game. He did, however, do a much better job sealing defenders at the second level. He was inconsistent when blocking at the line of scrimmage, but he did have success opening up the back side on zone plays.
Long easily shed on the pull block:
Long whiffs at the line of scrimmage:
Long does a nice job sealing at the second level:
The Bears shocked many analysts by selecting Long in the first round, many of whom thought he’d need some development time. That analysis seems to hold true as Long flashed his potential throughout his rookie season but he still has some work to do in order to live up to his first round status.
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