Bears likely to bring in OL help
August, 2, 2011
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesMike Martz likes the size of his offensive line, but there's likely to be help on the way.BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Eternally optimistic, Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz took a more realistic approach Tuesday in accessing the offensive line.
The Bears added free-agent center Chris Spencer on Sunday to replace veteran leader Olin Kreutz. But aside from that and the acquisition of first-round tackle Gabe Carimi, the team hasn't done much to address the position. Perhaps it's time that changed.
"I think we would all like to have a couple more veteran linemen. I don't think that's any different than any camp right now," Martz said. "I don't know if you can ever have enough quality veteran offensive linemen to challenge and push guys and make them better. But that's the case throughout the league. I think resolving offensive line is an issue in terms of the tackles and getting that kind of stabilized."
That's the consensus shared throughout the organization.
While the pass-rich scheme employed by Martz appears to be a finesse style, the Bears want the requisite maulers to make the end product possible.
As the club continues to tinker with combinations up front, one group of starters -- the most likely until Spencer gets up to speed -- includes center Roberto Garza, and guards Lance Louis and Chris Williams, along with tackles J'Marcus Webb and Carimi. That group weighs a combined 1,599 pounds, for an average of 319.8 pounds per man.
"I'm very happy with the size of these guys and how physical they are," Martz said. "Lance came back. He's a little heavier than he's been."
He's also nastier, based on the way he performed Monday when the team strapped on the pads for the first time. But once Spencer gets acclimated, there's a chance he could move Louis out of the starting lineup. Martz cautioned against "anointing" Spencer the starter right away, but it's likely he'll eventually line up with the first group.
As Spencer acclimates himself, Garza isn't opposed to possibly staying at his current center spot.
"I'm just gonna try to get better wherever they put me," Garza said. "If center is it for me, I'll be ready to roll."
Williams, meanwhile, says he has a better "grasp of what's going on and what's expected of us. Everybody's working hard, but we'll be ready."
Richard A. Brightly/Icon SMIJ'Marcus Webb may open the season at left tackle.
For Jay Cutler, surely that's the hope. In addition to the sacks he took, Cutler was hit by defenses on a fairly high percentage of pass plays. Of the 138 career sacks he's taken, nearly 38 percent of them came in 2010.
That's why the Bears want to get bigger and nastier up front. Martz thinks it's slowly happening.
"It's a big offensive line; big and physical," Martz said. "We're not a finesse, cute, cut and pull around and do those types of things. We want to come off the ball [and dominate opponents], and we have those types of guys."
Perhaps that's true, but can they get it done? After all, aside from new additions Spencer and Carimi, the Bears will likely enter the season with virtually the same group of players they used last year when Cutler was sacked more than any other player at his position.
It's likely the team will bring in more offensive linemen capable of pushing for starting positions. According to multiple NFL sources, the Bears have been in contact with a few linemen discussing the possibility of adding to the current group. An acquisition could come in by the end of the week.
"There's a couple of things with the line that are very encouraging that people outside the program wouldn't realize," Martz said. "Obviously, we miss Olin [Kreutz]. Unexpected, and it hurts all of us. We're very attached to Olin. But at this point, the five that we have in here, we're comfortable with. We're happy with the progress they're making and are very encouraged by it."
But that might not mean that more help isn't coming.