The Chicago Bears offensive line has been bad all year, but in their last game against the San Francisco 49ers it was absolutely dreadful. It's been a problem over the last couple of seasons and sadly it's a trend that doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.
The line allowed backup quarterback Jason Campbell to be sacked six times, 5.5 of those sacks coming from Aldon Smith alone. They have given up 34 on the season.
When you look at the Bears line, the best place to start is on the outside and work your way in. A good NFL offensive line has two solid bookend tackles; the Bears have neither.
J'Marcus Webb has started 38 games over the last three seasons with the Bears. That is far too many games for the seventh-round pick in 2010 out of West Texas A&M. He has been plagued by a combination of poor technique and flat out laziness since he showed up to Bears camp.
Webb has good size. At 6'7'', 333 pounds, he looks every bit of the part to play the position. His problem is his inability to move his feet laterally, allowing quicker pass-rushers to run around him. When he is able to get a body on someone, he does not use his hands well and gets thrown to the side.
Webb's poor play really hurts the passing game. When you cannot protect your quarterback from the blindside, the offense becomes susceptible to turnovers and you make the quarterback unsure of what's going on around him because the running clock in his head has shortened completely.
It's quite possible second-year tackle Gabe Carimi has been worse than Webb. Due to the fact he is a former first-round pick from last season, he is considerably more frustrating to watch. The 6'7'', 314-pound right tackle had his season cut short last year after two games due to injuries.
This year health hasn't been a factor for Carimi. He's started all 10 games and has looked bad in almost every single one. He did a nice job on J.J. Watt against the Texans but has been brutal otherwise. Carimi has been physically dominated all season. Pass-rushers have pushed him into the backfield and knocked him down more than than anybody in recent memory.
In addition to being knocked backward all the time, Carimi has been terrible when it comes to penalties. His false starts and holding calls have been drive-killers all season. He is not only in danger of losing his starting spot to veteran John Scott but also of being labeled a bust and cut at the end of the season.
Where's the leadership and fire from this line? Some of the toughest and most vocal guys on a football team should be the offensive line and it all starts with one guy. Roberto Garza has failed as a leader of this football team.
Garza is a 12-year vet in the league and this is his eighth season with the Bears. Considering his tenure and the fact he's the center, he should and needs to have a bigger voice. Playing the offensive line requires a sense of toughness, desire and passion. Garza is bringing none of that to the table for his linemates and his team. How do you think Olin Kreutz would react right now?
It has been a tale of two guards this season for the Bears. Chilo Rachal has not been good while Lance Louis has been the only bright spot on this offensive line.
A big part of the reason why the Bears cannot get a consistent running game going is because Rachal gets dominated on the left side, forcing the team to become one-dimensional and go to the right more than it wants. A good defense will pick up on that and provide help to that side to stop the run.
One glaring issue for the offensive line is the man calling the plays. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice was one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL for 14 seasons. He was a successful offensive line coach for seven seasons in this league. He of all people should be able to help this unit.
A large part of the unit's struggles is talent but in no way is Tice off the hook. His poor play-calling has not allowed the line to get into any rhythm or gain confidence. He clearly has not motivated this group because they seem to lack a fire and mean streak needed to play in the trenches.
Tice has to be the immediate answer for the offensive line's woes. There are no viable free-agent options currently. He needs to get this unit in a better position to succeed or else this team will not go far in the playoffs, and, even worse, it's going to get its franchise quarterback hurt significantly.