Sources point to Webb as the winner in the position battle, but neither Bears coach Lovie Smith nor offensive coordinator Mike Tice would tip the club’s hand; although it was believed all along the job was Webb’s to lose. Both coaches, however, gave the entire offensive line a passing grade for its performance Friday night in the team’s win over the New York Giants.
“You know a big emphasis has been placed on that position, left tackle,” Smith said. “We have other things going on, too. But J’Marcus Webb has done some good things. Chris Williams has done some good things. We need both of those players. We of course need Gabe Carimi also. Yes, their game picked up against a good defensive line.”
Facing a Giants defensive line that entered Friday’s game with 13 sacks in the preseason, the Bears gave up a few pressures, but held the defense without a sack. Tice thought the entire offense “made a lot of strides this preseason in our protection” and in particular, against the Giants.
Asked to rate the performances of Webb and Williams in the win at New York, Tice said, “both passed and took a big a big jump.” But the offensive coordinator insisted a decision hadn’t been made on the starter, adding the club will “talk about it in the next couple of days.”
“We’ve gained more knowledge of where we’re at. We played against a good front and they were missing one or two guys,” Tice said. “But they’re so deep. They don’t do much. They just come after you and challenge you man on man. So it was a really good test for us, and I think the guys withstood that test. No sacks. I didn’t see a ton of pressure. We were edgy a few times but nothing that would make you start to worry about where we are in protections right now. I thought protection-wise we were moving along right where we need to be.”
Tice pointed to run blocking as the area in which the offensive line needs to improve. The Bears averaged 3.5 yards per rushing attempt against the Giants, and rank No. 31 in rushing through the first three preseason games, averaging 59 yards per game, while sitting at No. 17 in total rushing attempts (70).
Despite Tice singling out the rushing attack as needing improvement, the coach added he’s not overly concerned with the early results in exhibition outings. Tice believes one reason the run blocking hasn’t been up to par is the fact the team spent most of the offseason and training camp focused on shoring up the pass protection.
“I’m not worried about it. We’ll run the ball fine,” Tice said. “We just have to pay more attention to it in our individual work. We focused so much on making sure we were able to protect our quarterbacks that we’ve taken some of that time in our individual periods and focused on the protection stuff. We just have to, in these next 10 days, spend more time honing some of those things.”
As for competition at left tackle, Williams said Webb has “done well” and “had a good camp,” adding that the derby for the starting job has “mainly been about consistency for everyone” because “they want to know what they can expect from you every snap, week-in and week-out.”
“I don’t know where the decision will go,” Williams said. “I feel I’ve done just about everything I can. I feel like I’ve got a spot on the roster (if Webb is named the starter). But you never know until the last day is up, I guess.”