Since being named a starter his rookie season in 2010, Chicago Bears offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb has been under an enormous microscope. A former seventh-round pick, Webb struggled mightily through his first two seasons. At left tackle last year, Webb gave up the second most sacks in the league (12), according to Pro Football Focus.
Alarmingly, Webb seemed to regress as the season wore on in 2011, playing his worst game in the season finale, giving up 3.5 sacks to Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings. Throughout his career, Webb has struggled against elite pass rushers like Allen, including Week 2 this year, when he was eaten alive by Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers.
Last season, offensive coordinator Mike Martz continued putting Webb on an island one-on-one, refusing to give him help on the left edge. New OC Mike Tice isn't that stubborn.
Against the Dallas Cowboys last Monday night, Webb was slated to face off against one of the best pass rushers in the game, DeMarcus Ware. Tice wasn't going to take his chances by putting Webb out there one on one, so he consistently chipped and doubled the left edge in order to protect Jay Cutler's blind side.
"I said in the last game, Green Bay game, I could have done a much better job helping guys," Tice said last week. "I thought the staff did a great job in putting together a plan [against Dallas] that utilized our backs and our tight ends to help our guys. I think that's part of the key, and making sure we're smarter and I'm smarter and how we help our guys out.
"We did a bunch of that against the best player we've played against to this point — [DeMarcus Ware] is a pretty special player. So that's part of it. The other part is our guys knowing where their help is and utilizing that help this week as far as linemen working together. The more we play together and the more we learn as coaches what our guys do well, I think the better we'll become."
Let's go to the film to break down three different ways Tice was able to stabilize the backside protection.
On this first play, Matt Spaeth lines up in the full back position, offset to the left side.
At the snap, Ware brings a speed rush. Webb keeps inside leverage and allows Ware a lane around the edge. But Spaeth is there to cut off that lane. He shoves Ware back inside to Webb before releasing downfield. The chip kept Ware out of the backfield.
At the snap, Adams locks up on Ware but he also gets help from Michael Bush coming out of the backfield. The two players double-team Ware, which is enough to keep him at bay. By deploying this strategy, Webb gets a play off from having to block Ware.
Spaeth motions from the right side until he's to Webb's outside shoulder. Ware rushes off the left edge but Spaeth stays in on max protection. Webb and Spaeth then double-team Ware, who again is stymied at the line of scrimmage.
Anyone who has been paying attention to the Bears the past few years knows that Webb can be a liability at left tackle when facing the game's top rushers. Time and time again, when he's been asked to block these elite players one on one, he has looked like a turnstile.
Tice knows this as well as anyone and decided to take steps to make sure the Cowboys game wasn't a repeat performance. He used a number of different schemes, formations and strategies to chip and double Ware on the left edge, which allowed Cutler time to throw for most of the contest. And when Cutler has time to throw, good things usually happen.
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.