CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman prefers to reserve judgment on the performances of rookie offensive linemen Kyle Long and Jordan Mills for after he thoroughly evaluates tape of Thursday's 33-28 win over the San Diego Chargers.
Long and Mills manned the right side at guard and tackle on the first-team offense and appeared to put on promising displays.
"I felt that as I watched the line of scrimmage in the run game, we were moving the line of scrimmage," Trestman said. "We weren't getting pushed back. For the few throws that we had, I thought the two of them played very well from my perspective. I could be wrong. We're going to evaluate it and see where we are [Friday]. You'll be very much aware of where we think we are by how we go about practicing next week. We're going to look at this thing closely."
After participating in 51 snaps apiece last week against Carolina in the exhibition opener, Long and Mills played 15 snaps in the first quarter as the Bears rolled up 100 yards -- including 74 yards on the ground -- and converted 67 percent of their third downs. Quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a pair of sacks, but neither of those came from pressure on the right side, where the rookies were playing.
Perhaps one telling moment for the rookies came near the end of the first quarter. Holding possession at the San Diego 11 with 1:32 remaining in the first quarter, the Bears handed off to Matt Forte three times in a row to the right side behind Mills and Long. With the rookies leading the way, Forte gained 11 yards on those three carries and capped a four-play scoring drive with a 3-yard touchdown that put the Bears up 14-0 after Robbie Gould’s extra point kick.
"It's never as good or as bad as you think it is," said Long, the Bears' first-round pick. "So we'll take a look at the film and see how it turned out. But I didn't end up on my back, so that's alright. As rookies, you need as many snaps as you can get. I know it's beneficial, and I'm sure Jordan will echo the same thing. You get out there and get as many snaps as you can to be put in as many different scenarios that you can be so you can be prepared when the season comes around."
Cutler seemed pleased with the performance of the rookies on the right side. If it continues, the duo could make it difficult for veterans James Brown and J'Marcus Webb to retain their starting jobs. Brown and Webb finished 2012 as the starters at right guard and right tackle. Against the Panthers last week, the veterans started and produced mixed results, with Webb giving up a sack on third down that killed a drive.
Cutler completed four of five passes for 38 yards, a touchdown and an interception with very little pressure coming from the right side. Forte finished the first quarter with 74 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, but the bulk of that (58 yards) came on a toss to the left side, where left tackle Jermon Bushrod laid the block that allowed the running back to reel off the big gain.
"They did well," Cutler said. "They were fired up and excited to be out there. I don't think they were nervous by any means. They run blocked well, and their pass protection was just as good. We'll keep going with those guys, and I know [offensive coordinator Aaron] Kromer will coach them up. I'm sure there are corrections to be made, but I was at ease having them in, which is nice."
Still, Trestman maintains the plan all along was to start the preseason with Brown and Webb starting on the right side before switching to Long and Mills, a fifth-round pick, for the second game. The third preseason game at Oakland next week is considered more or less a dress rehearsal, which means the combination the Bears use on the right side will likely be what they plan to utilize on Sept. 8, when they open the regular season at home against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"As I said last week, we haven't made any decisions on the [starting] five," Trestman said. "This was the week to move people around going into the third game next week. We did that, and now we'll evaluate and see where we are."