By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) When the Bears’ offense takes the field Friday night in Oakland, two rookies will be starting on the right side of the offensive line for the second straight week.
Kyle Long and Jordan Mills earned that opportunity by playing very well last week against the Chargers, but it’s important to remember that it was only a preseason game.
“They have to continue their development as well as the offensive line in general,” offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of development that needs to be done yet. Luckily we have two or three weeks left before we play Cincinnati, and it’s important that we keep working each day.”
Which is why Mills, a fifth-round draft pick, isn’t taking anything for granted after one good performance.
“I didn’t come in expecting to start,” Mills said. “I expected to learn behind these great tackles and offensive line, get tutelage. They took me under their wing and I learned as I went.”
It’s one thing for Long — a first-round draft pick with obvious physical gifts — to come in expecting to start, but it’s another thing for Mills to have those same expectations as a fifth-round pick. Heck, he’s still listed in the weekly press notes as a fourth-teamer on the Bears’ unofficial depth chart.
“Coach says about two weeks ago we’re throwing people in different spots to see how we do and I’m just taking it one day at a time, one moment at a time, trying to help make myself better and my team better,” Mills said.
That’s exactly what he did last week against the Chargers, and he if he does it again Friday against the Raiders, there’s a good chance he’ll be be starting Sept. 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals when the regular season starts.
“If I start Game 1, then I start Game 1. If I don’t, I’m going to be on that sideline rooting my team on,” Mills said.
But the Bears don’t want to see him on the sideline and if they start two rookies on the right side of the offensive line, the significance can’t be minimized. It’s been a long time since the organization had so many rookies contributing at a high level in the preseason, so the hype and attention can be forgiven, especially on the offensive line. Of course, attention is not something Mills is used to, having played at Louisiana Tech in college.
“It’s way different, but the attention humbles me,” Mills said. “It comes with it, we’re in Chicago. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world.”
By comparison, Mills called Ruston, Louisiana, where Louisiana Tech is located, “a great town, but there’s nothing there.”
It seems as though the rookie is adjusting to the change of scenery just as fast as he’s adjusting to the jump to the NFL. The same can be said of Long, who is probably adjusting even faster. Of course, the coaching staff is going to keep expectations tamed.
“We’re behind,” Kromer said. “We need to catch up and keep working.”
But working is something that Mills and Long have no problem doing and they enjoy working together. The two of them met in January at the Senior Bowl and have become close since then, even rooming together in Bourbonnais.
“To have him here with me is priceless,” Mills said. “It’s going to be a long journey hopefully.”
The Bears certainly hope so.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.