One of just two players on the Chicago Bears offensive line to start all 16 games at the same position last year, J'Marcus Webb moves back to right tackle for 2013, potentially his last season with the team that drafted him.
Because of the Bears' acquisition of Jermon Bushrod in free agency, Webb no longer will be burdened with the task of protecting Jay Cutler's blind side from opponents' best rushers. Still, 2013 shapes up as a make-or-break season for Webb, who is entering the final year of his original rookie contract, which pays $575,000.
Webb started 12 games at right tackle as a rookie for the Bears, and every game the past two seasons on the left side. He'll compete with Jonathan Scott during training camp for the starting nod. But he came into the early part of the competition in a precarious spot due to a Feb. 27 arrest for possession of marijuana. Charges were later dropped, and Webb reportedly called the situation a "wake-up call."
"We definitely let him know what our expectation level is and what our standards are, and we certainly expect that he will work diligently in meeting those expectations and standards and continue to compete for his job and add to the team," general manager Phil Emery said in March.
Despite the move to the right side, Webb possesses a combination of size, agility and strength that make him an ideal prospect as a left tackle. Webb actually played more consistently in 2012 than often given credit for, but he suffered through occasional mental lapses in games, causing unnecessary punishment for Cutler. As the new coaching staff evaluated the personnel on hand shortly after it was hired, the group came away somewhat impressed by Webb's abilities.
The hope internally is that new offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who has a reputation for developing linemen, can help Webb reach his full potential. Webb has shown glimpses of strong play throughout his 44 career starts, but not consistently enough for the organization to trust him on a long-term basis.
This season goes a long way toward Webb earning or not earning that trust.
He's definitely displayed growth in terms of maturity during the offseason after the marijuana arrest, and has said he's taken steps in his personal life that will make him better on and off the field. But we won't know for sure until the conclusion of the season.
At this point, any skepticism on the organization's part would be warranted.