Typically for an NFL starting offensive line the first preseason game is good for about a quarter's worth of work. For the Chicago Bears in the preseason opener, that wasn't the case. Against the Denver Broncos, the starting front five played almost the entire first half.
Coordinator Mike Tice obviously wanted to give this group extra snap stogether, with the goal of building needed continuity.
Yet that doesn't explain why left tackle J'Marcus Webb remained on the field until midway through the fourth quarter, long after the rest of the starters had called it a night. Tice likes to send messages to his players – while coaching for the Minnesota Vikings, he once pulled a fan from the stands to participate in non-contact blocking drills – so it's likely he was trying to get the point across to Webb that he needs to play better.
Let's go to the tape and break down Webb's performance from Thursday night, focusing on pass protection.
-1st and 10. Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil jumps offside, which causes him to hesitate as the ball is snapped. This gives Webb time to drop back and get in front of the speed rush. The play is also a bootleg the opposite way, so Dumervil never comes close to the quarterback.
T J'Marcus Webb
-1st and 5. The next play, Dumervil rushes hard off the edge. Webb gets in front of him but his weight is back on his heels. Dumervil cuts inside and Webb cannot stay in front. All he can do is reach out and grab the defender's jersey. QB Jason Campbell cannot get a clean pass off with Dumervil in his face and the ball falls short for an incompletion.
-3rd and 10. Campbell is in shotgun looking to pass. The Bears use Kellen Davis and Kahlil Bell to support Webb on the left side. Webb doesn't initially have anyone to block. He then picks up a linebacker on a delayed blitz, before coming off that block and getting a hand on a second linebacker, allowing Campbell a lane through which to scramble.
-1st and 10. Webb false starts. This has been a problem for him throughout his career. It was disconcerting to see him do it again just one quarter into the preseason.
-1st and 15. Broncos DE Jason Hunter uses a pure bull rush. Webb gets good hand placement and anchors his hips. He drives Hunter's shoulder pads backward, not allowing the defender to get any pressure.
-3rd and 9. DE Robert Ayers comes off the edge. Webb shuffles his feet nicely and is able to keep his balance and change direction when Ayers tries to cutback inside.
-3rd and 11. Ayers comes off the edge. Bell comes out of the backfield and chips on Ayers. Yet Webb's balance is awful and after he is chipped, Ayers gets his hand underneath Webb's shoulder pads and drives him into the pocket. He then sheds the blocker and picks up the sack. Even with help, Webb isn't able to keep the defender out of the backfield. His worst effort of the night.
-1st and 10. Ayers rushes outside but quickly cuts inside. Webb is off balance from the start and allows the defender to collapse the pocket up the middle. It's as if Webb was guessing instead of using his fundamentals to stay in front of the defender.
-Three pass plays in a row the defender just tried to push Webb backward. Webb did a good job of not losing leverage and easily made the block on all three plays.
-1st and 10. Ayers fakes as if he's going to come off the edge but then slants inside behind the DT. Webb does a good job moving his feet and following Ayers inside, keeping him out of the backfield. Unfortunately, LG Chris Spencer gets driven five yards backward and gives up the sack.
-Webb has a tendency to drop his head in accordance with his hands. Whenever the defender knocks his hands down, Webb's head follows, thus taking his eyes of the player he should be blocking.
-2nd and 9. DE Cyril Obiozor stutter steps off the line. Webb sinks his hips and extends his arms. The defender then jukes inside, slapping away Webb's hands, and gets inside leverage. Webb never moves his feet. The ball is released just before the defender can get to the quarterback.
-1st and 10. Obiozor comes off the edge. He tries to slap away Webb's hands but Webb quickly repositions his paws on the defender, while keeping his head up. His base stays low and Obiozor has no lane at the quarterback. Solid technique by Webb.
-2nd and 5. Webb uses a good hand punch to stuff Obiozor at the line. The defender then grabs Webb by the chest and rips him forward, throwing the blocker off balance. He's able to get outside penetration but RB Armando Allen throws a chip block, giving QB Josh McCown time to get the pass off.
T J'Marcus Webb
-Throughout the game, Webb showed a quick kick-step and was faster dropping into protection than he was last year. A positive sign.
-2nd and 10. Obiozer tries an inside cut but Webb punches him in the chest, knocking the defender backward and out of the backfield.
-3rd and 8. Obiozer rushes hard off Webb's left shoulder. The defender then grabs Webb by the front of the jersey and yanks him down. The pass gets off but it's another example of Webb being too unbalanced.
What we saw on film is a handful of plays where Webb looked good, especially against Denver's third team, but overall, his technique, balance, leverage, footwork and decision-making in pass protection were below average. Tice talked in camp about scheming protection to support Webb on the left side, which the team did on a few of occasions, lining up tight ends on the edge and chippings with running backs. Unfortunately, even that didn't seem to help much.
Yet Webb showed well as a run blocker, demonstrating good power off the snap and decent awareness at the second level. That is an area of his game where there has been definite improvement – although at left tackle, being able to pass protect is far more important.
The Bears are in a rough spot with Webb. The coaching staff was hoping Chris Williams would push Webb in camp but that experiment lasted all but a week. Since then, Williams has been backing up Gabe Carimi at right tackle. If the club thought Williams could play on the left side, they wouldn't have shifted him out of that spot after only a handful of practices.
Tice retains the right to switch things up but it appears he may be forced to go forward with Webb at left tackle. From what we saw on film, he's going to need to show vast improvement over the next three weeks, or else pass protection will again be the bane of Chicago's offense.
Notes on second-team LT James Brown
-3rd and 12. DE Jeremy Beal rushes off the edge. RB Lorenzo Booker comes over to chip on the defender. Brown tries to punch Beal with both hands but Booker knocks the Beal inside at the same moment. Brown is left with a handful of air. His head is down and he doesn't realize the defender is inside him before it's too late. The play goes for a sack.
-Brown showed good explosion off the line as a run blocker but he did not sustain his blocks well. He'll need to start blocking to the whistle if he wants a chance at making the roster.
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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.