Tice: Left tackle battle is wide open

July, 26, 2012
7/26/12
3:28
PM ET
TBDScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesChris Williams was drafted to be a left tackle. Can he finally grow into the position?

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The competition for the starting left tackle job might be one of the most hotly contested battles of Chicago Bears training camp – and at least that’s what offensive coordinator Mike Tice is hoping.

When asked if the job was incumbent J’Marcus Webb’s to lose, Tice gave an impassioned answer.

“No, it’s not (Webb’s) job to lose,” Tice said after Thursday’s session. “He happened to be in there first cause of the fact that he finished the season as the starter. It’s gonna be a dog fight for those two guys. I’m not going to put up with any crap as far as turning guys free and not protecting the quarterback.”

“We have too many athletes to not be able to throw the football explosively. And, no, it’s not his job to lose. He might think so, but if he thinks so, he’s wrong. There’s going to be a competition between he and Chris and we’ll see how that turns out. We’ll keep the heat on both of them, and we want to see, when we get in pads, who’s going to block our good pass-rushers. … I know they can both run-block, but we’re not going to go out there and run the ball 50 times a game, so you gotta be able to protect. If they can’t protect, they can’t play for us.”

Tice’s “no crap” diatribe is not baseless -- unreliable protection on quarterback Jay Cutler’s blindside has been concerning theme during each of his three seasons in Chicago. This past year, Webb committed an NFL-high 15 offensive penalties, and according to “Football Outsiders” ranked second in the league with 11 blown blocks leading directly to sacks or offensive holding penalties.

That’s why the club decided to move Williams -- a former first-round pick and starter the last two seasons at guard -- back to offensive tackle where he’ll push Webb for the starting spot. Throughout organized team activities and minicamp, Williams and Webb alternated repetitions with the starting group.

“You just come in and keep working hard like I always do, and let that stuff sort itself out,” Williams said. “There’s always pressure.

“Everyone has a job to do; the whole team. We’ve just got to come out, do our best to be explosive and take care of our part of the bargain.”

Based on recent history, however, Williams’ words seems like a tall order. And if Cutler is again subjected to that type of punishment when he drops back to pass, Chicago’s offensive makeover – highlighted by the additions of wideouts Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery – will never reach its explosive potential.

Webb is unfazed by the pressure of a training-camp battle.

“It doesn’t affect me too much,” he said. “You just got to come out here and do your job, get better every day and help your team out.

“It’s a good time to get back into football. We’re ready, and revved up for the season to start.”

It’s time now for one of them to create separation in the competition so the club can nail down the starting group up front as quickly as possible.

“The competition will take care of itself,” Williams said. “I’m not really changing my approach at all.”

He’s also tuning out the naysayers.

With all the attention focused on the new scheme, Cutler’s new weapons and recently re-signed running back Matt Forte, the offensive line continues to carry question marks. Interestingly, there seem to be high expectations concerning the offense as a whole while the offensive line is widely considered to be the team’s major weakness.

“I don’t listen to people. I don’t really hear what they say, so that’s probably the first time I’ve heard that,” Williams said. “You know, that’s fine. We’ll take the challenge.”


Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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