Chicago Bears' Offensive Line Troubles Are No Secret

Gene ChamberlainCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2010

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 17: (L-R) Chris Williams #74, Olin Kreutz #57 and J'Marcus Webb #73 of the Chicago Bears wait in the huddle against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on October 17, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Bears 23-20. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With the Bears, the quest for truth frequently gets delayed or completely hidden.

Coach Lovie Smith deals mostly in vagaries, oversimplification and false positives. Out of fear of losing jobs, players are in lock step.

Coordinators, at one time available to discuss games immediately afterward, this year have been told they must wait until the following Wednesday to talk to media members. At least it gives everyone time to get their stories straight.

Still, about 65 hours after the game, coordinators usually shed some actual light on success or disaster, and that certainly was the case this week. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz and line coach Mike Tice discussed the blocking—or lack thereof—and game plans that seem to play to the Bears' weaknesses.

"We're very fortunate to be 4-2 as poorly as we've played up front at times," Tice said.

The offensive line already has one Jay Cutler concussion, a league-high 27 sacks and a 26th ranking for rushing attempts on its collective conscience.

With right tackle J'Marcus Webb in only his second NFL start and right guard Edwin Williams in his second Bears start, coaches attempted to simplify the blocking scheme to the point of diminishing returns against Seattle.

"There is no question and last week we tried to simplify some things," Martz said. "You lose your ability when you do that. You have to be very careful because you lose your ability to adjust."

The Williams-Webb right side has good size and some athleticism, but also problems. It's chiefly those two who the Bears had to simplify the offense for, although left guard Chris Williams was out of position playing inside. But most of the problems came off the right side.

"We had some young guys out there that didn't communicate some things that went on on the field," Tice said. "It changes calls, one guy sees it and doesn't pass it along it kind of hurts the mesh of things and the more they play together, the more they get confidence in what they're seeing and that they believe what they see, they'll be able to blurt those things out and communicate."

In particular, he referred to Webb and Williams. Tice said "both of them don't say a word," which can't help their ability to communicate.

"There's a reason why sometimes young linemen look like they don't know what they're doing—usually they don't," he said, laughing.

The two have been encouraged to speak out a little more and communicate what they're seeing to center Olin Kreutz and each other.

"I think they learned some things from the tape," Tice said. "I'm having them both go through, especially Marcus, go back through the game again tonight and write some things down.

I want to see how they stepped away from the game for a couple days. I want to see them go back to the game, take some notes and see what they saw, how they can fix it and (for Webb to) see if he's seeing himself the same way I'm seeing him. I think that's a good exercise for young guys."

The inability to handle blitzes, especially from defensive backs, did not come completely unexpected.

"We knew that when we went with the young guys, that we were going to have some of those growing pains," Tice said.

The trouble is, now it's on film for all the NFL to see. And this week the Bears face Jim Haslett's Washington Redskin defense, one which blitzes repeatedly, like most 3-4 teams.

"I’ll say this about our right guard and right tackle, second half I thought they were outstanding," Martz said. "They really matured and I was really excited watching them in the second half. I think that whole group is growing together and Mike has done a remarkable job putting that stuff together."

Echoed Martz: "I thought the second half, they pass protected their butts off. And then I think if you study the sacks, a lot of them are coming in the first half and they're cleaning some things up and settling down better in the second half. So we just have to try to keep their confidence up and get them to believe in themselves and go from there."

Truth be told, the Seahawks had four of their six sacks in the second half, so coaches apparently see something the stat sheet doesn't reveal.

The Bears have converted only three of their last 40 third down attempts and went 0-for-12 last week.

"That’s really the crux, the third downs," Martz said. "We’ve got to fix that so we can continue (drives)."

Much of this goes back to the offensive line as well. With little confidence they can get the play blocked, but they can't call exactly what they want to call in difficult down-and-distance situations. With no rushing yardage on first or second down, converting third down becomes all the more difficult.

"(Washington) will be a challenge for us and everybody will be a challenge for us until we gain some continuity and some confidence and figure out the things we do well and the things that we don't," Martz said.

So far, blocking falls under the category of things they don't do well—along with getting directly to the problems at hand.