The Bears Offensive Line Will Be Fine. Until You Really Need Them.

Philosopher Georg Hegel is commonly quoted as saying, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”  If ever there was a perfect example, its the 2012 Chicago Bears.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune addresses the fact that offensive coordinator Mike Tice left tackle J’Marcus Webb out on the field into the fourth quarter Thursday night:

“You didn’t need telepathy to read the mind of offensive coordinator Mike Tice, who has been among Webb’s biggest supporters. It was a clear message that was delivered to Webb: You have not been good enough.”

Biggs is undoubtedly right.  There isn’t a single doubt in my mind that Tice left Webb out there not so much to embarrass him but because he genuinely felt he needed the work.  But its also not beyond him to send messages to players through action.  Biggs relates a story from when Tice was with the Vikings.

“In 2005, he pulled a fan off the sideline at Vikings training camp and had him fill in at guard during a non-contact drill without helmets. He was sending a message to his players.”

Biggs continues:

“Tice said earlier this week from training camp at Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais that no one had claimed the left tackle job and run away with it. Webb has it virtually by default, even though it looked like it was designed that way ever since the Bears chose to draft a speed rusher and big wide receiver in the first two rounds last April instead of seeking a tackle.”

I mildly disagree.  The Bears didn’t choose a big wide receiver or a speed rusher over a tackle because there were no starting left tackles available when they made those picks (arguably).  However, the best guard to come out in the draft in the last ten years was there for the taking.  And that brings us to Chris Spencer.  Who also didn’t play well and, according to the Tribune’s Dan Pompei, could easily lose some snaps to Chilo Rachal or even Edwin Williams, who has done nothing but impress every time he’s had an opportunity to play.

And then there’s right tackle Gabe Carimi who also didn’t play well to my eye Thursday.  Carimi looked a step slow against Elvis Dumerville and made me wonder if his knee is still bothering him.

However, getting back to Webb, Biggs puts the situation in perspective:

“There are no other options. If the Bears thought [swing tackle Chris] Williams was a solution, they never would have pulled him off the left side. Undrafted free agent James Brown is intriguing but not as a left tackle in 2012. Starters don’t suddenly appear on the waiver wire in late August. Webb is the guy, and the Bears knew that almost certainly would be the case back in the spring.”

So despite the “message” being sent by Tice, the question isn’t, “Is Webb good enough to keep his job?”  There’s no one else to take it.  The real question is, “Will Webb be good enough to do a decent job during the season?”  The same question could be extended to the entire offensive line.  And the answer is, “Sometimes.”

Most people don’t remember that the Bears had a pretty rough start to the preseason last year, first performing poorly against Buffalo before being humiliated by the New York Giants.  As they will this year, they recovered to be decent – most of the time.

But “most of the time” isn’t when you really find out what an offensive unit is made of.  Last year, the Bears line had their embarrassing performances at more exceptional times.  Like when they found themselves in a dome where they couldn’t hear the snap count or when the other team knew they had to pass.  It’s at these times that you find out how much talent you really have on the offensive line.  And history tells us the Bears don’t have much.

Unfortunately its also these times that define a team and a season.  First and ten at your own twenty with two minutes left and you are 6 points behind.  Its a passing situation and you can’t leave potential receivers in to help block a four man rush at that point.

The Bears have two dome teams in their division that they absolutely must beat on the road.  Everyone remember what happened in Minnesota last year when Webb became an orange traffic cone and the Bears had to triple team Jared Allen to stop him?  Remember what happened to the line in Detroit?  That’s what we’re headed for this again this year.

If there’s any single reason to believe, as I do, that the Bears will finish third behind Detroit and Green Bay this year, all you need to do is look at the offensive line.  Because history tells us that they’ll be just good enough to let you down when you need them.

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