CHICAGO – A new general manager, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach cannot erase an age-old question for the Bears.
Who can be trusted to protect the quarterback’s blind side?
The Bears do not feature many position battles heading into training camp next week, but a big one exists at left tackle. The two main candidates to win the starting job are J’Marcus Webb and Chris Williams, and the competition is up for grabs as practices approach.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice offered few clues about the position battle during the team’s veteran minicamp at Halas Hall. The rest of the starting offensive line is expected to feature Roberto Garza, Chris Spencer, Lance Louis and Gabe Carimi.
“To be quite frank with you, you’re not going to tell anything about your offensive line until they put pads on,” Tice said. “To sit there and say, ‘Oh, yeah, this guy, he’s going to be the answer to the problems,’ that would be silly. So we just want to make sure that they’re assignment-sound, technique-sound, working their hands. …
“That’s really all we can look at right now.”
Here is a look at the candidates to start at left tackle.
• Option No. 1: Webb
Webb, who will turn 24 next month, is the incumbent starter. The 6-foot-7, 333-pound player started 16 games at left tackle last season after appearing in 14 games (12 starts) as a rookie in 2010.
Although Webb has shown promise at times, he also has endured several lousy performances that have led to hard hits against Cutler. Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen beat him routinely last season, tallying 4½ sacks in two games against the Bears.
• Option No. 2: Williams
Williams, who will turn 27 next month, will receive another opportunity to earn the most important job on the offensive line. He failed to maintain the job in two previous seasons after starting five games at left tackle in 2009 and two games at left tackle in 2010.
The 6-foot-6, 320-pound former first-round pick has bounced around the offensive line during four seasons with the Bears. In addition to seven starts at left tackle, he has started 20 games at left guard and 11 games at right tackle. A wrist injury sent Williams to injured reserve after Week 10, but he participated fully in minicamp this summer.
• Option No. 3: A new arrival
So far, the Bears have given every indication that either Webb or Williams will win the job to protect Cutler’s blind side. Both players split first-team repetitions during minicamp, and their competition could continue until a make-or-break third preseason game.
However, if neither player steps forward to seize the starting job, it’s possible that general manager Phil Emery could look elsewhere for help. Several veteran offensive linemen become available every summer as part of teams’ final cuts, and it’s possible that another club's overpriced backup could become the Bears’ reasonably priced starter.