- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears are standing pat on the offensive line heading into Saturday's preseason matchup in Tennessee, according to offensive line coach Mike Tice.
Tice challenged the unit following the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills when the Bears surrendered nine sacks, although only three were credited to the line. However, the pass protection held up nicely in New York as the Giants managed only one sack throughout the entire game. This was a stark contrast to last year, when New York knocked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler out of the game with a concussion.
"We had some guys get better across the board," Tice said Wednesday. "I think each one of the guys got better at some thing, some guys got better at multiple things. Mental errors were at a minimum and they played hard. We played with good technique, for the most part, so it was a good stepping stone for us. But we've got a long way to go still."
While Tice was measured in his evaluation, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz heaped praise on the line for the progress made in little over a week.
"I’m going to be very cautious with this," Martz said. "It was a remarkable improvement. It’s like I told them, it’s good news and bad news. The good news is you improved remarkably. The bad news is we expect that now, and no less than that, every time you play.
"They’re making real good progress. They really are. It takes some time for those five guys with all the different calls that go on, and the blitz pickups and whatnot, but they’re really coming together pretty good. That first game, we did not play the way we had practiced, though, either, so I was a little disappointed in that. But we’re getting to move forward a little bit."
In particular, second-year left tackle J'Marcus Webb and right guard Lance Louis found themselves in the spotlight after an especially shaky preseason debut. Webb magnified the problem by telling reporters after the Bills game he failed to match the intensity of Buffalo's Shawne Merriman. Tice publicly took exception to Webb's remarks, but felt the left tackle responded and turned in a solid effort against the Giants.
"The coach can challenge a player all he wants, but the player has to challenge himself," Tice said. "If he can't do that, then they don't make any strides. He did challenge himself and came ready to play and looked extremely athletic like we knew he was. It was a good outing for him."
Tice, however, stopped short of guaranteeing the Bears would use this exact starting lineup when the regular season rolls around on Sept. 11.
"I have a plan," Tice said. "I try to always have a plan, and I'll have a plan if the original plan doesn't work out. But I don't think I have to announce it to the world, right?"