LAKE FOREST – If you’ve been in Chicago a while, you can probably imagine my surprise when I asked new Bears head coach Matt Nagy this question and he told me exactly what I wanted to know.
"Coach, because of their size, is it difficult to put Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen on the field at the same time?"
Nagy’s eyes opened as wide as I’ve ever seen them, and with a look of delight, he asked me, “What would you do? You want them on the field?”
I wasn’t challenging or doubting Nagy, I’m just trying to learn as much as I can about how the Bears' new coach plans to turn his offense into a fireworks display every Sunday around noon.
So, I persisted: "I just mean because they’re both so small coach?"
“I think it’s good," he said. "I could care less about size. I just think you put the best football players out there for that personnel group, for scheme, and for the play that we have.
“You can’t live in it.
“You can’t live with three huge receivers in there either, in my opinion. What that does is to force the defense to change up now a little bit how they play defense personnel-wise.”
Fair enough. Nagy has the skins on the wall to suggest he knows whereof he speaks.
Here’s where I was going.
Let’s put Cohen in the slot, Gabriel at receiver and throw Trey Burton in at tight end – which we can assume the Bears will this year – Allen Robinson outside and Jordan Howard at running back.
The possibilities and explosiveness are limitless, and that’s why Bears fans are so excited right now.
What isn’t limitless is the blocking.
Not that Burton, Gabriel and Cohen aren’t willing blockers, they’re just not big enough.
Howard’s pass protection has been suspect at times, and you didn’t give Robinson $42 million with close to $25 million guaranteed to block.
When opposing defenses choose to disrupt any one, two or three of Gabriel, Cohen and Burton at the line of scrimmage, Mitch Trubisky could take a beating if his five-man line isn’t Kevlar.
What is the most unsettled and least proven group on the Bears roster?
If Kyle Long is healthy, Trubisky’s odds of survival and Nagy’s hopes of success go up dramatically; he’s that good.
Nagy said of Long recently, “No one on this team is locked into any position, but I would say he's about as close as you get, I mean that's his spot (right guard).”
But Long is rehabbing three different surgeries right now.
Cody Whitehair has one All-Rookie season at center and a disappointing sophomore campaign sliding between center to guard.
For now, Whitehair’s a center and second-round pick James Daniels, the top center prospect in the draft, is a guard.
Journeyman Eric Kush, who had a nice 2016 filling in for Long but spent last year on injured reserve, is also a guard.
Bobby Massie is probably the safest bet at right tackle, and at left tackle, Charles Leno got a new contract last summer and then ranked among the league leaders in false starts and swings and misses at onrushing defensive linemen.
When I asked Nagy if it was just appearances, or there was an intentional lack of competition at tackle, he said, “It’s probably more of just appearances.
“We feel really good right now where we’re at with the offensive line. There’s a lot of depth and a lot of competition.
“So when you have that, Harry’s (Hiestand) going to do a great job of mixing guys in and out. To have position flexibility in this league is so important, so when you have a guard that can play center, you have a tackle that can play both sides, it’s too valuable to not have that.”
True enough, but what you’d rather not have is a line with just a right tackle, right guard you hope is healthy and nothing but prospects everywhere else.
Nagy didn’t have stars up front in Kansas City, but he had five guys he knew he could trust.
Right now in Chicago, he’s got lots of question marks.