Is Tice overloading OL with schemes?
October, 18, 2010
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- First-year Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice referenced in August the minimum 37 pass protection schemes he brought to Chicago.
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastMike Tice brought 37 pass-protection schemes to Chicago when he became the Bears' offensive line coach.
That philosophy sounded encouraging before the start of the regular season, but after another suspect performance by the offensive line in Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the players up front might be dealing with information overload.
Quarterback Jay Cutler has been sacked 23 times in 4 1/12 games and is on pace to more than double the career-high 35 sacks he suffered in 2009. Cutler was sacked an NFL-record nine times on Oct. 3 against the New York Giants, and one of those hits caused a concussion that kept him out the following week against the Carolina Panthers.
Tice is known to change his protection schemes on a weekly -- and sometimes daily -- basis, a coaching style that could be difficult for a relatively inexperienced group. While one week the offensive tackle is responsible for picking up a blitzing defender coming off the edge, the next week it could be the running back's responsibility.
Shuffling the schemes so frequently -- and sometimes uncomfortably close to kickoff -- could easily lead to the kind of confusion in blitz pickup the Bears showed against New York and Seattle.
Tice emphasized the importance for a thorough game plan before the season.
"You have to carry a lot of protections, because you really think you know what the other guys are going to do, but sometimes you don't know what they are going to do," Tice said in August.
"It could be you throw a protection out on a certain day and say let's not do that, even though that was one of the ones you worked on and it was a major one in your plan. Sometimes you need to go to protections to help other players that might be having an off night. [You may say] let's major in this protection so we can keep the tight end in. All of those things come into play, so you need to carry that many protections."
When a 13-year veteran like Olin Kreutz, who is responsible for making on-field protection calls, is unable to get his teammates on the same page, there is an issue.