Could Chris Williams push J’Marcus Webb at left tackle?Continue reading.
Lovie Smith casts support for J’Marcus Webb and offensive line
PALM BEACH, Fla. — In Lovie Smith’s eyes, the Bears are fine standing pat on the offensive line.
“We like the group of offensive linemen we have right now, with what we’re going to do with them, we think we can be very successful with them,” Smith said. “With that said, you’re always – right up until the opening week – if there’s someone who can improve us we’re going to look at it seriously.”
Smith said, in essence, the Bears are getting two new players.
“Chris Williams in there. Gabe Carimi in there. I’m excited about getting them back into the mix,” the Bears coach said of two players who missed most of the 2011 season.
The Bears addressed several key holes during free agency, adding a No. 1 receiver (Brandon Marshall), a No. 2 quarterback (Jason Campbell) and a No. 2 running back (Michael Bush). They also have re-signed a couple players and added a few other free agents.
But questions remain about the quality of the Bears offensive line. While he didn’t close the door on possibly adding to the unit, Smith also insisted that he’s comfortable with his current group. And he — on several instances — backed left tackle J’Marcus Webb.
First, Smith said Carimi’s rehab is going well and that he will be ready for offseason activities. But when asked if Carimi will remain at right tackle, Smith said, “Good starting spot would be the right side, then we’ll see how it all plays out, see who we end up getting.
“We feel comfortable with J’Marcus at left tackle. Gabe could probably play left tackle. But we have plenty of time for all of that. That’ll work itself out.”
Last season, though, Webb struggled mightily at left tackle. He had 15 penalties and, according to Pro Football Focus, allowed 12 sacks, the second-highest total among NFL tackles. In defending Webb, though, Smith suggested the young player — a former seventh-round pick — didn’t get enough help.
That was what others around the league said was a key problem: Offensive coordinator Mike Martz counted on Webb to handle defensive ends alone far too often.
“I’d say any tackle can look bad at times. There are some things you have to do to help him out a little bit more, at times, which we plan to do,” Smith said. “So you can make a case and throw out stats on what he did. But, I think it’s hard for all tackles by themselves in the league to block Julius Peppers from time to time. We feel we’ve got a good plan at the left tackle position. I’ll say that.”
Asked if they could still bring someone in, Smith said, “We’ll keep all options open right now.
“But, if we end up playing J’Marcus Webb at left tackle, we’d feel comfortable with that.”
Meanwhile, Smith said Williams could play any position but center.
“Except for center, which he played a little bit in college, you could make a case for him at guard or tackle,” Smith said. “Maybe a better case at guard, but you could say tackle, too.
“All those things will answer themselves a little bit later on.”
My belief is, Williams could be given an opportunity to compete with Webb at left tackle. Between Lance Louis, Chris Spencer and Edwin Williams and a possible draft pick, the Bears should be able to do fine at guard. And Roberto Garza, who signed a contract extension late in the season, will return at center. Williams could be tossed into the guard mix, but he may be given a chance to push Webb at left tackle.