2017 Chicago Bears training camp preview: Offensive Line

Long, Whitehair, Sitton give Bears a very good interior O-line heading into camp

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This is the fifth of our position-by-position series previewing what to watch in Bears training camp this summer. The team reports to Bourbonnais July 26. (H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)

The strength of this Bears team comes on the interior of the O-line, with Pro Bowlers Josh Sitton and Kyle Long at guard and Cody Whitehair, who flourished as a rookie, manning the center position. Left tackle Charles Leno is playing for a big contract, and Bobby Massie is playing to live up to his. Here are questions to be answered along the O-line in training camp. (H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)

When will Kyle Long be ready? — Coming off ankle surgery this offseason, it’s been a long recovery for the three-time Pro Bowler and most recognizable and popular player on the team. Long’s leadership is important on an offense with so many new faces once again, but his play is also paramount to build off last season’s team success running the ball. Long may swap with Sitton and play left guard, something we could see tested out in Bourbonnais, but first Long has to be fully healthy. He is a candidate to begin camp on the PUP list, but the Bears certainly need him in the trenches and back to his Pro Bowl form. (H. Rick Bamman - Shaw Media)

How good can Cody Whitehair be in Year Two? — The sophomore jump in the NFL is an oft-discussed offseason story line. Whitehair is the ultimate Bears candidate to break out and be a Pro Bowl player in his second season. Consider this: Whitehair, who didn’t play center in college, moves to the pivot just before the season starts and winds up as an All-Rookie performer, showing plenty of poise and confidence at center. Now, give Whitehair a full offseason to work at the position and he should improve greatly. The Bears liked his strength and footwork coming out of college, and they saw his intelligence on display last season. Whitehair’s progress in camp and into the season will be key considering his upside. (H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)

Can Charles Leno play well enough to be the long-term left tackle? — Maybe the best draft pick of the Phil Emery era, or second to Long, Leno has now spent the majority of two seasons as the team’s starter at left tackle. He’s extremely cheap this season at $690,000 at a high-paying position. Should Leno ascend, using his great size and now his experience at the position to be a dependable blind-side tackle, the Bears could reward him with a long-term contract. They’ve shown confidence in Leno by not drafting or signing left tackles in the past two seasons, but he still needs to play better. Leno is only 25 and the team will want to see his progress when he steps on the field in training camp. (H. Rick Bamman - Shaw Media)

Can Bobby Massie improve and make this unit one of the NFL’s best? — Massie signed a three-year, $16 million contract in March 2016, but was considered by some to be the weak link last season. The interior is very good with Whitehair, Long and Pro Bowler Josh Sitton, and Leno is solid at left tackle. The Bears did sign veterans Tom Compton and Bradley Sowell, so Massie could see competition if his play slips in Bourbonnais. Or, he can be the player the Bears gave more than $5 million per season to when he comes to camp and help fortify the group. (H. Rick Bamman - Shaw Media)

Who will be the top reserve O-linemen? — A two-year, $2.7 million contract puts Eric Kush in good position to be the top interior backup. 2015 third-rounder Hroniss Grasu returns from a torn ACL. Sowell and Compton will be part of a competition to be the swing backup tackle. These battles will play out in Bourbonnais. (H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)

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