- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice eschewed sugar coating Monday in articulating blunt assessments of the offense’s performance in a 31-3 loss to the Denver Broncos in the preseason opener, and a situation on the line he joked causes him “to have trouble sleeping at night.”
As the competition for the starting job at left tackle continues, it appears Chris Williams may be moving ahead of J’Marcus Webb, whom Tice referred to as “the other player.”
“We were disappointed in the fact we didn’t carry over some of the things we were doing in practice to the game,” Tice said of the offense. “Also I felt like, physically, we got our butts kicked. I think it was evident more so with some guys than others. I didn’t feel that overall, as an offense, we did enough physically to make any type of statement.”
Tice pointed to the team’s inability to run the ball effectively against the Broncos as “the biggest disappointment in all.”
“I thought from Day 1 of minicamp and OTA days, we would be able to run the ball when we wanted to run the ball,” Tice said, “and we didn’t do a good job of running the football.”
The Bears averaged 1.7 yards per attempt on 21 runs against the Broncos, with backup running back Kahlil Bell breaking off the team’s longest gain, a 7-yard tote in the first half. Of the club’s eight first downs, the Bears gained only one of them by running the ball.
Tice pointed out strong performances up front by right guard Lance Louis and right tackle Gabe Carimi, but expressed surprise with the rough outing left guard Chris Spencer experienced, adding that Webb -- referred to as “the other player” -- wasn't “up to par as far as the standards we’re trying to set to protect our quarterbacks.”
“There were some guys that went out and competed with great tenacity; Lance Louis for example,” Tice said. “I don’t think we’re going to find that he’s going to back down from anybody this season. Carimi is going to compete.”
As for Spencer, Tice was “very surprised” in his performance because the veteran finished last season with the team’s second-highest grade.
"Although his style of play is not going to be like Gabe’s … everybody wants Chris Williams and Chris Spencer to be like Gabe,” Tice said. “It’s two different styles. That’s why we have Gabe on the right-hand side. He’s a bruiser. But I was very surprised (with Spencer). It was not a good tape to watch. It’s certainly not a tape -- and Chris knows this; we’ve spoken about that -- it's not a tape you want on your resume.”
As Tice attempts to add to his own resume as an offensive coordinator, the situation at left tackle remains one of the most pressing to resolve as the Bears head into the regular season. Tice plans to play both Williams and Webb with the starters on Saturday against the Washington Redskins because “it’s very important for us in our evaluation process.”
In the preseason opener, Williams played what Tice called “a solid game” while Webb continued to struggle. After spending all of last week working at right tackle behind Carimi, Williams slid back over to the left side when practices resumed Saturday, and took repetitions with the starters.
Tice said Williams’ move back to the left side came as the result of Carimi’s improved health. Tice originally moved Williams over to the right side to spell Carimi -- who was recovering from offseason knee surgery -- on occasion, while Webb took the majority of repetitions with the starters at left tackle. The move was seen initially as a promotion for Webb, but both Tice and coach Lovie Smith insisted at the time the competition at left tackle was far from over.
Tice said the latest change in the rotation at left tackle shouldn’t be viewed as an attempt to send Webb a message.
“You have to understand how I work. There’s no message being sent,” Tice said. “Anything that goes on with the players, they know up front in the meetings. They know how much they’re going to play. They’re told why there’s competition at certain positions. They’re told each day where we need to see them improve in what areas. There’s no secrets. I don’t operate like that. Message, subliminal message? There’s none of that going on.”
What’s transpiring, however, is a situation at the left tackle position in which neither of the candidates has gained significant separation toward earning the starting job. It’s an unsettling prospect for Tice, who said, “I have trouble sleeping at night until I know that our quarterback is protected.”
When it was suggested that Webb -- because of his high activity on social media -- possesses somewhat of a swagger, Tice said, “I wonder why?” before adding “I can’t worry about Webb Nation and all the other things he does socially. That’s not for me. He’s a grown man. I just want him to play better football for us.”
Webb was one of three Bears offensive linemen flagged for false-start penalties against the Broncos as the unit played a role in allowing six sacks. With the quarterbacks finding little time to scan the field for open receivers, the Bears finished 0 for 11 on third-down conversions.
So ultimately, “we have to make sure that we’re protecting our quarterback,” Tice said. “So we’re going to continue to make sure that we continue to see who is going to emerge there (at left tackle) as the guy.”