Monday, August 15, 2011

Chicago?s offensive line is in midseason form, and that?s not good

Just as there are good things to be taken away from any loss, there are negatives to be drawn from any victory. In the case of the Chicago Bears' 10-3 Saturday win over the Buffalo Bills, the nine sacks allowed by the Bears' offensive line ? starters and backups ? was more than just a preseason anomaly.

In 52 defensive snaps, the Bills amassed nine sacks, nine tackles for loss, and eight quarterback hits. So, on 26 of their plays (a full half of their offensive snaps), someone was in the backfield, getting their clocks cleaned.

From left tackle J'Marcus� Webb's Facebook account:

Remember Webbies, last night's game was the first pre season and we have only had two weeks of practice. Stay positive! We'll get it together! Bear down!

Well, as nice a sentiment as that is, it doesn't address the larger problem ? namely, that the Bears' offensive line was just about as horrible last season as it is now. In a 17-3 Week 4 loss to the New York Giants in 2010, quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked nine times in the first half before leaving the game with a concussion.

And this happened before they said good-bye to veteran center Olin Kreutz, signed former Seattle Seahawks first-round center Chris Spencer to a two-year, $6 million contract, named Spencer as the backup center, kicked guard Roberto Garza over to starting center, took Webb from right to left tackle, and put 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi at the right tackle spot (despite the fact that Webb was pretty bad at right tackle in 2010). The only guy staying put from last year is left guard Chris Williams, and the former first-round left tackle may be the most frustrating player on the line from a potential perspective.

All that movement may have been interesting, but it certainly didn't help. Webb was absolutely posterized by Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman, a player who hasn't been an effective pass rusher on a week-to-week basis since 2007, and a Bills front seven that finished dead last in each of Football Outsiders' primary defensive line stats blew up that line from left to right.

Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune put the problem thusly:

What the Bears line needs at this point isn't Kreutz (that ship has sailed) or Willie Colon (they swung and missed at the Steelers lineman), or Bryant McKinnie (he's still out there but not a viable option).

What the Bears line needs is time.

The players need reps. They need tape sessions with coach Mike Tice. They need technique work on the side. They need to become more familiar with the protections. Each player needs to get a better feel for the player or players lined up next to him.

Well, here's the potential problem with that, and quite possibly the overall problem with the Bears' line beyond talent evaluation (Jerry Angelo and Tim Ruskell and the team's front office are on the hook for that). If offensive line coach Mike Tice is playing to form from the 2010 preseason, he hasn't even installed line protections yet.

When Williams allowed multiple sacks against the Oakland Raiders in last year's preseason, Tice said that it wasn't really the player's fault ? it was Tice who refused to give Williams help in pass protection.

Tice, from ESPN Chicago last August:

You have to carry a lot of protections, because you really think you know what the other guys are going to do, but sometimes you don't know what they are going to do. You have to have ways to adjust to that. It could be you throw a protection out on a certain day and say let's not do that, even though that was one of the ones you worked on and it was a major one in your plan. Sometimes you need to go to protections to help other players that might be having an off night. [You may say] let's major in this protection so we can keep the tight end in. All of those things come into play, so you need to carry that many protections.

And if you don't, well, USE those protections until the regular season begins, especially when you have a bunch of new linemen? You get what the Bears got last preseason, and this preseason, and quite possibly what the Bears will get going into the regular season. The Bears ranked very low in most of FO's 2010 offensive line stats, and this season, they're going into a season with a center who's never made line calls before.

If I was Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, I'd take a good look at my insurance policy.


Darnell Dockett Donald Penn Drew Brees Dwayne Bowe

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