Health of Long, Robinson key for Chicago Bears offense

 
By Hub Arkush
harkush@profootballweekly.com
Updated 5/16/2018 8:14 PM
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  • Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comWide receiver free agent signee Allen Robinson holds up his jersey during a press conference at Halas Hall in Lake Forest Thursday.

    Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.comWide receiver free agent signee Allen Robinson holds up his jersey during a press conference at Halas Hall in Lake Forest Thursday.

  • Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long (75) walks on the field during warmups before an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long (75) walks on the field during warmups before an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Chicago.

As the Chicago Bears begin Phase 3 of the Matt Nagy era -- organized team activities (OTAs) -- excitement is rampant among the players at Halas Hall, and more than a few analysts are projecting dramatic improvement for the ballclub in 2018.

Wednesday, at the second of the team's OTAs, Danny Trevathan explained why even if Nagy is viewed as an offensive savant, the defense is excited, too.

"He's a cool coach, man," the linebacker said. "He's always giving us little details and smiling, but we know he's a hard worker just like we are.

"He's always putting us in the right position, and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. I feel like we've got a good leader up here in the head coach."

That Nagy is winning over his players on both sides of the ball is a great start, but it will take more to make the Bears relevant again.

All of the new offensive schemes and ideas Nagy has brought with him can only help if he also can oversee a big step forward on the offensive line and at receiver.

Ryan Pace's two most recent second-round draft choices -- center/guard James Daniels and wideout Anthony Miller -- can be solid contributors to that effort.

But the two keys to a big step forward for quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the offense are the return to good health and past performance of two of the only three current Pro Bowlers on the roster: Kyle Long and Allen Robinson. (Jordan Howard is the third).

Long was an all-star his first three NFL seasons before a string of injuries limited him to eight starts in 2016 and nine last season.

Robinson, meanwhile, had 153 catches for 2,283 yards and 20 touchdowns while starting 33 straight games with Jacksonville before tearing his ACL on the third play of the 2017 season.

Nagy said Wednesday he is confident and excited about where his two biggest stars are at right now.

He said of Long: "At some point we'll get him out there; you know for him he's been doing really well. He's been just honing in on the details of the job on the offensive line, and then as soon as we all agree that he's ready to go, he'll be up and going."

According to Nagy, Robinson might be doing even better.

"He's ahead of the game; he's looking good," Nagy said. "We're feeling really good about his prognosis as far as getting started, and there's no need to rush it."

Nagy and Pace surprised some folks when they announced the rookie Daniels actually would begin working at guard instead of center because of their desire to lock Cody Whitehair in at one position.

Nagy said the same is true of Long when I reminded him of the earlier regime's efforts to make him a right tackle first and then a left guard.

"No one on this team is locked into any position, but I would say he's about as close as you get. I mean, that's his spot," Nagy said. "As I said the other day with Cody at center, we want these guys to feel comfortable in their positions."

The Bears are mediocre, at best, at tackle with Charles Leno on the left side and Bobby Massie on the right and no one on the depth chart to push them. Left guard is a competition right now between Daniels and journeyman Eric Kush.

A starring role and 14-16 starts from Long would seem a must to give that group some teeth, keep Howard near the top of the league's rushers and give Trubisky the protection he needs to blossom.

As for the importance of Robinson, while Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton are nice new pieces as well, how much better is this year's group than last year's without a No. 1 to lead the way?

For the Bears' offense to be special, Long and Robinson will have to be on the field.

• Hub Arkush, the executive editor of Pro Football Weekly, can be reached at harkush@profootballweekly.com or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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