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Hub Arkush: Long, White will determine how much progress Bears can make in 2017

August 17, 2017 GMT

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — There are two players who — more than any others on the Bears’ roster — hold the key to whether or not the Bears can take a significant step forward this year.

If they both come through and reach their full potential, the Bears could conceivably take a big step forward this year.

If they don’t, another 3-13 campaign is not off the menu.

I believe the defense has an excellent chance to finish the season ranked somewhere between eighth and 12th in the NFL.

The offense on the other hand is much harder to get our arms around and we honestly don’t yet know whether or not the coordinator can coach.

But Dowell Loggains isn’t a player and neither Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky are one of the players I’m talking about.

It would be great if Glennon took hold of the No. 1 job and refused to let go, or Trubisky just proved to be so good you can’t keep him off the field but neither can change the Bears’ fortunes on his own.

The players in question are Kyle Long and Kevin White.

Long has proven he can be one of the best offensive linemen in football when healthy and in the right position.

Will he be healthy and is left guard the right spot?

Long was clearly frustrated throughout the Bears’ time in Bourbonnais by his slow progress returning from ankle surgery and that finally boiled over when he started two different fights and was thrown out of practice on the final day at Olivet Nazarene University.

When he was nowhere to be seen at Halas Hall Wednesday alarms started going off everywhere but John Fox explained, “He’s at a doctor’s appointment. It’s his ankle, that’s what he’s been kind of working on.”

Pushed on whether or not the fights were an issue his coach assured everyone, “Our guys, we’ve got a bond and he’s one of our family and he’ll be treated as such, like any kind of thing that happens in a family. Guys adapt and respond and I think everything’s fine.”

I don’t doubt Fox but here’s what is becoming an issue: Long is looking more and more like a long shot to be ready for the opener against the Falcons.

The assumption throughout the offseason has been that Long, Cody Whitehair and Josh Sitton give the Bears one of the best interior lines in football.

But the weak link in the offensive line is left tackle Charles Leno, and if Long is out with No. 3 guard Eric Kush already on injured reserve for the year, suddenly the line becomes very iffy.

Then there is White, who so far in training camp would be very easy to miss if everyone wasn’t so focused on him.

Loggains says of White, “He’s missed a lot. The growing experience, he might have got it mentally, but he needs to go out there and experience that and feel what it’s like to go against a press corner.

“We got to figure out, ‘Hey, this is what Kev does well.’ And maybe it’s everything. Maybe, it’s seven or eight routes. Maybe, it’s three or four, but we have to figure what that is.”

Fair enough but here’s the problem: Cam Meredith proved last year he could be a solid second option when teams were focused on Alshon Jeffery, but he is not a No. 1 receiver.

If White isn’t that guy, then Meredith could be a problem, too.

Victor Cruz appears to have something left in the tank but strictly as a No. 3 in the slot, and no other pass catcher other than the undrafted rookie free agent Tanner Gentry has really shown anything. And nobody is scheduling Gentry’s party to celebrate him making the team yet.

If White can be the No. 1 the whole group might be good enough. But if White can’t get it done, the whole receiver unit could render the question of Glennon or Trubisky moot.

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