In pass protection this year, the Chicago Bears' offensive line has been outstanding. Through the first eight weeks of the season, the Bears have given up just 11 sacks, second fewest in the league. That is dramatic improvement over the past three years, in which Chicago finished 25th, 27th and 32nd respectively in sacks allowed.
It's a testament to the new coaching staff, particularly offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. Yet it's also due to four new bodies up front, which includes two rookies on the right side. One of those youngsters, Kyle Long, has been extremely impressive in pass protection, grading a healthy +33 in protection, per the BR Trench Report.
Long spoke with Bear Report this week as he prepares for Monday Night's game against the Green Bay Packers, his first of what will be many contests in the longest-running rivalry in the NFL.
"We had a nice break last week, but now we're ready to get back to work again," Long said.
What does Green Bay bring to the table?
"Just about everything. They're big but surprisingly fast. I've spent a lot of time the past two weeks looking at game film and watching to see what they do.
"Just as is the case for our team, Green Bay has had some injuries to key players but I'm sure they will react just as we have. The next guy up will perform and do well. I'm looking to a challenge but I'm also thinking it will be a lot of fun.
"Going up [to Lambeau Field] for the first time as a rookie will be a big thing for the young guys. I grew up in an NFL family so I do understand the intensity that will be involved in the game. There's a lot of history behind both of these teams. It will be interesting to see the town and the stadium and experience this for myself.
"Being a Monday night Game, the intensity should be huge. You go in there knowing that a lot of people, along with your friends and family, will be watching. I'm expecting crowd noise and a lot of stuff going on. That's fine. Once the ball is snapped, that is where my full concentration will be.
"Each game brings a different challenge for an offense and Monday night will be no different in that sense. We're going to go up there and try to pay attention to the cues that we can, make our reads and try to do things that will be effective.
"Green Bay has some big boys, some big men. That can intimidate you but it's not the type of thing we've never faced before. You deal with whoever is facing you and take care of the situation. To my mind, it's all about your technique. If that is sound then things should go OK.
"We've been spending a lot of time this week getting back to that. We've been paying attention to every detail of play. You break down the parts of what you do on the field, then build it back up again. There will be no room for error in this game. We're all aware of that."
How do you view the Green Bay defense?
"Look at it this way, if you're going to lift a refrigerator, you're not going to just walk up to it, throw your arms around it and pull. You've got to bend down, put your butt down, roll and use leverage. You've got to use some finesse, some technique to get the job done. That's something we need to concentrate on to be successful on Monday.
"You'd be surprised how well the guys from Green Bay can move. It's amazing. There's a reason they are all there and playing at a high level in the NFL. We are taking nothing for granted. They're strong guys with the ability to two-gap. It's not traditional two-gap in the sense that these guys make a lot of plays. They can give us a lot of different looks. They pose the challenge and we've got to respond."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.