Bears shake up offensive line

The offensive line has held back Chicago's offense all year. The Bears' coaching staff decided changes were necessary and elevated Chris Spencer and Jonathan Scott to the starting lineup.

Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice yesterday made it very clear the reason his offense has not been able to find its rhythm this season.

"The concerns offensively – the lack of rhythm, the lack of the fast starts, the lack of success on first down – are still haunting us," Tice said. "We felt like we had a decent plan going in [to Monday's night's loss to the 49ers], playing some smash-mouth, getting into that third-and-medium, giving us a chance to convert to stay out of those long situations and giving those nickel pass rushers a chance to tee off.

"That didn't happen in that football game."

San Francisco sacked quarterback Jason Campbell six times, 5.5 at the hands of OLB Aldon Smith, who had his way with offensive tackles J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi. Left guard Chilo Rachal also had a very poor game, giving up a sack and committing two holding penalties.

"So where do we go from here?" Tice asked. "We're evaluating our guys to see what's going to give us the best chance to succeed and do some of the things we're trying to accomplish offensively."

To that end, the Bears made two changes to the starting lineup this week. Chris Spencer has replaced Rachal at left guard, while Jonathan Scott has replaced Gabe Carimi at right tackle.

"It's upsetting," Carimi said today. "They just told me that the new guy is coming in."

Last year's first-round pick, Carimi has struggled all season in pass protection. According to Pro Football Focus, he has allowed seven sacks (fourth most in the league amongst offensive tackles) and 28 QB hurries (fifth most). Carimi missed all but a game and a half last season due to a dislocated knee. He had three surgeries on the injury, yet it still was bothering him in training camp, and could be the main reason his play has dropped off.

Tice also said that Carimi's age and lack of experience have hindered him throughout 2012.

"I think Gabe is so intense and something happens early and he's a young player, he's only played in 11 games and change. He's a young player. He gets all worked up and he doesn't settle down and it compounds," Tice said. "It's happened more than once. It compounds and it keeps building. So he's a young player that has to work through it. He really does."

Carimi will sit for now and learn by watching his teammates from the sidelines.

"I'm just inconsistent right now," said Carimi. "Be it the knee or be it aggression, who knows what it is?"

He said he's confident he can come back from the demotion.

"I know I'll come back. I'm good. I'll be back."

Tice said Scott – a seven-year veteran who was signed by the club on Sept. 10 – has played well for the team this year, albeit in a very limited role.

"We've been playing him a little bit," said Tice, "trying to get him in there and get his legs underneath him and see what he can do. And he's done a solid job for us."

Scott (6-6, 318) has played two seasons apiece for the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers. He has started 30 games in his career, his last for the Steelers in last year's playoff loss to the Denver Broncos.

"I'm not new to this," Scott said yesterday. "I won't get rattled. I understand the game. I have the desire to win. I feel my skill set is where it should be to make a positive contribution to the team right now."

Spencer was promoted at left guard yesterday. He started 14 games last season at right guard and played well – Tice said Spencer graded out the most consistent of any offensive lineman last season. Yet his move to left guard this season, where he's never played before, didn't go as well. He was benched after two poor outings to start the campaign.

When Rachal was given the news of his demotion yesterday, he reportedly packed up his stuff and stormed out of Halas Hall. The Bears immediately placed him on the Reserve/Left Team list and signed James Brown off the practice squad to take Rachal's roster spot.

(**UPDATE: Bears today placed Rachal on the reserve/non-football injury list.)

Lovie Smith wasn't willing to address Rachal's departure today.

"Chilo isn't with us right now," Smith said. "He's not practicing. That is all I'm going to say on the matter. We can talk about something else."

Smith also refused to discuss the move at right tackle.

"What move? We don't talk about things like that, of course as you know."

Despite Smith's unwillingness to talk about it, what's transpired over the past two days has shaken up a starting offensive line that has allowed the second most sacks in the league (34) this season.

"At the end of the day, you've got to block," said Tice. "If you're assigned a guy to block, you've got to block him. Bottom line, that's what it is."

So far this season, the front five have held back an offense that has quality playmakers at most skill positions, including Brandon Marshall, who is on pace to shatter numerous franchise records at the wide receiver position.

The hope is that these personnel moves can upgrade an offense that ranks 30th in total offense and 31st in passing. It also puts the rest of the underperformers, namely left tackle J'Marcus Webb, on notice. Get the job done or you're out. After two straight losses, dropping the club into second place in the NFC North, the time is now to put up or shut up.

Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

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