LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Feel free to compliment the Bears' offensive line for its run blocking and improved pass protection.
Just don’t go overboard.
That was the message Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice delivered on Thursday as the team prepared for its highly-anticipated rematch with division rival Detroit.
“You always have that fear as a coach that after a good game, and you guys are all kissing their butts right now, that they start thinking they are good,” Tice said. “Well, they’re not good. They had a solid game. But they have a long way to go. Because I could sit here right now and give you 10 things each player did poorly in the game and have to get better at."
Perhaps the most obvious reason behind the offensive line's performance the last few weeks is continuity. Sunday will mark the fourth straight game the Bears start Lance Louis at right tackle and Chris Spencer at right guard, a combination that is expected to remain intact until further notice. There seems little chance rookie Gabe Carimi jumps right back into the starting lineup when/if he returns from a serious knee injury.
But according to Tice, the line was playing OK even before Louis and Spencer solidified the right side.
“I know people don’t want to hear this; some of the higher grades my guys got were in that New Orleans game,” Tice said. “But because of those four or five sacks in the last 14 plays, it felt like a total ass-whipping debacle, but it really wasn’t the case. But I think that we’re playing better as a unit right now, better than we played in Detroit. But that comes with guys playing together every week.”
Although the right side of the line has undergone plenty of turnover, the left side duo of tackle J’Marcus Webb and guard Chris Williams, in addition to center Roberto Garza, has remained intact through the first eight games. Garza has been in the news this week after receiving a two-year extension, and left tackle Webb always seems to be in the spotlight because of the position he plays on the line.
However, Williams -- the Bears' 2008 first-round draft choice -- has gone unnoticed much of the year, at least to those on the outside. Tice gave Williams a decent midseason review, in his own special way.
“I felt like going into last week’s game [Williams] was having a solid year,” Tice said. “I felt last week’s game wasn’t his best game. I felt there were some things technique-wise he could have done better. But he’s had a solid season. At times very good. He’s very smart, so he’s not going to get you beat with mental errors. He has probably the lowest amount of mental errors of anybody I’ve ever coached. That says a lot when coaching guys like Matt Birk from Harvard, guys of that intelligence caliber, guys smarter than I am.
“He’s continuing to improve … but he has his moments where you want to choke him.”