It has been 38 years since the Bears played a season with a pair of first-year players regularly starting on the offensive line, but it could happen this season.
It was in 1975 that center Dan Peiffer and right tackle Jeff Sevy were the starters on Jack Pardee's first team, which finished 4-10. And technically they weren't rookies.
Sevy was drafted in the 12th round by the Bears a year earlier but wasn't on the roster in '74, and Peiffer was drafted two years earlier, in the 14th round by the St. Louis Cardinals but never played for them.
In Marc Trestman's first year as Bears head coach, he knows anything similar to Pardee's 4-10 debut would be considered a disaster. But his offensive line could feature a pair of true rookies: first-round pick Kyle Long at right guard and fifth-rounder Jordan Mills at right tackle.
Both started Thursday night's second preseason game and if nothing else showed they deserve a longer look. Long, in particular, appears to have a firm grasp on the starting job.
"I can tell you from practice, and I've said it for the past week, he is not making incremental increases in his play," Trestman said of Long after Thursday's game. "He is really ascending a little bit quicker than that.
"Now, we aren't going to get ahead of ourselves. It's the first time he's (started), and he's played very little in his life."
Long started just five games in his one season at Oregon after two years at Saddleback (Calif.) Community College, where he played his first season as a defensive lineman.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked twice on the first possession playing behind the two rookies, but the offense also produced 14 points in the first quarter of the 33-28 victory.
"They did well," Cutler said. "They were fired up and excited to be out there. I don't think they were nervous by any means. They run-blocked well, and their pass protection was just as good.
"We'll keep going with those guys, and I know (offensive coordinator/offensive line coach) Aaron Kromer will coach them up. I'm sure there are corrections to be made, but I was at ease having them in, which is nice."
Long and Mills have benefited from the veteran presence of center Roberto Garza, left guard Matt Slauson and left tackle Jermon Bushrod, but Long said there are benefits to learning along with another rookie.
"It's like when you're a new kid in school," he said. "It's good to have another new kid in school sitting next to you. You can go sit with each other at lunch and stuff like that. We look at film a lot together, and we meet with the coaches a lot. It's good to have him next to me."
But you can't copy off him, right?
"Actually you can," Long said. "You get in the huddle and I can say, 'What's your answer for this question?' and he gives me the answer."
While Long is the favorite to win the right-guard job over James Brown, an undrafted rookie last year, Mills still must prove he's a better option than veterans J'Marcus Webb, Eben Britton and Jonathan Scott (when he returns from a knee injury).
While the two rookies already have formed a bond, Mills said the veteran presence has been helpful in their development.
"We're playing off the veterans," Mills said. "Everything we do, we watch the veterans. They're veterans for a reason. They've been in the league a long time for a reason, and they're so good at what they're doing, and they're so humble and respectful; they help us with anything we need."
The Bears were confident enough in their rookies to frequently run the ball to their side of the field Thursday, and Trestman was encouraged by the results, which included 143 rushing yards on 37 attempts.
"I felt as I watched the line of scrimmage and the run game we were moving the line of scrimmage; we weren't getting pushed back," Trestman said. "For the few throws that we had, I felt the two of them played very well from my perspective.
"We'll evaluate it. We haven't made any decisions on the (starting) five; this was the week to move people around with going into the third game next. I will evaluate and see where we are."
Friday night's game in Oakland against the Raiders is by far the most significant preparation for the regular season, since most starters will play into the third quarter. They will play sparingly if at all in the final preseason game.
If Long and Mills play well this week, the next step is starting in the opener day.
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