Hoge: Offensive Line Shows Improvement Against Giants
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By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) It’s still nowhere near perfect, but the Bears’ offensive line certainly looked better against the Giants Monday night.
J’Marcus Webb still provided some doubts at left tackle, Lance Louis allowed a sack and Gabe Carimi flinched a couple times, but overall, the line worked well together to give Jay Cutler time to throw the ball and not get killed like he nearly did a year ago in the Meadowlands.
Ironically, it was the run blocking — which for the most part has good good in camp — that struggled.
“The offensive line got better,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “We completed some passes, we got some first downs, got the receivers involved. We need to get the running game a lit bit more involved but we made some strides.”
Here’s a look at how I saw the offensive line Monday night from left to right:
Left tackle J’Marcus Webb
Webb didn’t have any devastating mistakes, but he also didn’t do anything to prove he should be the starting left tackle. He was called for a false start on the Bears’ first offensive series and while it looked like Carimi may have jumped too, replays showed that Webb definitely flinched first.
Webb otherwise played a good first quarter, but was beat a few times in the second quarter by Jason Pierre-Paul, leading to offensive breakdowns. On the third play of the second quarter, Pierre-Paul went around Webb, forcing Cutler out of the pocket and and led to an eventual incomplete pass (although tight end Kellen Davis dropped the ball short of the first down line). Webb also got beat by Pierre-Paul later in the second quarter, which forced Cutler to make a quick dump off pass to Bennett who couldn’t hold on in traffic. Finally, on a screen pass with 30 seconds left in the first half, Webb and Chris Williams were supposed to stay home on the left side, but Webb failed to stay in front of Pierre-Paul, forcing Cutler to get rid of the ball in a panic and the play busted.
Webb’s run blocking was average. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes, but also never really got a good push or a key block to spring a nice run.
Left guard Chris Williams
Williams is quietly having a great camp at left guard and played well again Monday night. He made no glaring mistakes in pass protection and while he never really got to the second level on run plays, he still made all of his initial run blocks. He made one especially nice block on the one Wildcat play the Bears ran — I like to call it the “Bearcat” — but it was called back because of a Kellen Davis hold.
Center Roberto Garza
Garza had a mostly quiet night. He didn’t look horrible at anytime, but he also didn’t stand out. He was pushed back on the third play of the second quarter, which contributed to Cutler getting flushed out of the pocket, but the key mistake on that play fell on Webb. The Bears also ran a large amount of screen plays in the game and Garza looked lost on most of them, diving and missing on a couple blocks down field.
Right guard Lance Louis
On the first play from scrimmage, right guard Lance Louis ran right by Michael Boley, who stuffed Matt Forte for a one-yard loss. Louis also allowed a sack later in the game when he let Rocky Bernard get by him, flushing Cutler out to the left side where he was forced to conceed the tackle to Jonathan Goff.
Bernard also only got the only good hit on Cutler all night, when he got past Louis and hit the quarterback right after he left go of the ball.
Louis continues to look like the least ready starter on the offensive line and it seems doubtful the Bears are going to be able to stick with him at right guard.
Right tackle Gabe Carimi
Carimi’s run blocking wasn’t as great as it normally is, but he did a nice job on Justin Tuck all night long. He was called for a false start in the second quarter and would have been called for a different one on the Bears’ first drive of the game had Webb not jumped first.
Carimi also let Mathias Kiawanuka get too close to Cutler on a second half play, which allowed Kiawanuka to get his hand in the quarterback’s face. He was called for roughing passer, but Carimi could have kept him away from Cutler in the first place.
Carimi continues to be above average. He’s not dominating any opponents 1-on-1 by any means, but he’s keeping almost every single one of them in front of him, which is a sizeable upgrade from what the Bears had at the tackle position last year.
The bottomline is that while the Bears’ offensive line was much better as a whole Monday night, it is still just average. It should be noted that Chris Spencer played well again in a reserve role, meaning moving Garza back to guard and starting Spencer at center could improve the line considerably. At this point, the insistance of keeping Louis at right guard is starting to look silly. They might keep him there through Saturday’s game against Tennessee — there’s only two real days of practices in-between to shuffle the deck — but if he doesn’t improve quickly, there’s no way they can start Louis against the Falcons Sept. 11.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.