“His makeup is outstanding. When you talk about work ethic, team captain, leadership all those traits that we stress around here, he brings those to the table.”
The Bears expect Kevin White to be a star but third-round pick Hroniss Grasu could be the most important piece of establishing their new identity. Taking Grasu in the third round wasn’t sexy and wasn’t expected, but it’s not unlike 1998 when the Bears spent the 64th pick on Olin Kreutz. One major difference: Grasu’s impact should be felt more immediately.
Kreutz didn’t play much as a rookie for the Bears and it took him nearly four years to get his feet set. When he established himself, the Bears became the NFL’s biggest surprise team, going 13-3 with Anthony Thomas leading the way. The next few years they suffered through the end of the Dick Jauron era before Lovie Smith came. After Smith hired Ron Turner, the Bears reestablished their power offense and Kreutz was the best offensive player on a team that went to the Super Bowl.
Grasu is two years older than Kreutz was entering the league and comes with 52 collegiate starts. While many are quick to dismiss his collegiate experience as playing in a gimmick offense, it is the same offense Kyle Long played in before starting — and playing well — as a rookie with far less experience. The new Bears center even said his new team is going to be doing many of the same things his college team did.
John Fox wants to run the ball. Given their roster, we can expect the Bears to be in spread formations a significant amount of the time. It’s not how Fox did it in Carolina but the league has changed and Fox has evolved with offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
The Broncos operated out of the shotgun the majority of the time last year and with heavy investments in White, Eddie Royal and Alshon Jeffery already on board, you can expect the Bears to do the same. With Grasu, they have a center who can snap the ball on target — a major issue for Roberto Garza over the years — and then make a block. It’s a skill most rookie centers don’t have, but Grasu showed it consistently at Oregon.
I don’t know if Grasu is going to dominate as a rookie, but it isn’t unusual to see rookie center play at a high level. Learning the exotic blitzes the likes of Mike Zimmer and Dom Capers are going to throw at him will take time. As will getting use to some of the physical defensive tackles he’s going to see over the course of a 16-game season.
With Grasu, the Bears have a guy who has a chance to be more than just a guy. They have a guy who has a chance to become The Guy.
Young players get blasted for who they hang out with, but in Grasu’s case that works in his favor. He and Long have both spoken about their friendship off the field. While Grasu may not have the talent Long has, he has similar traits both on and off the field. He’s the kind of player the Bears want.
With a 60-year-old coach and two coordinators who want head coaching jobs ASAP, the Bears aren’t going to wait forever to win. They need Grasu to be ready sooner rather than later. He has the ability, the intelligence, experience and attitude to help them, if not from Day One, then very soon.
Grasu is going to be a big part of the team’s identity going forward. He is a smart and tough player, a battery mate for Long as the team establishes who they are going forward. If there is one player from this draft class who symbolizes who the Bears are going to be, it’s Grasu.