An NFL scout’s take on Bears’ erratic offensive line
BY NEIL HAYES Twitter: @bynhayes November 28, 2012 12:23PM
The Bears offensive line of (L-R) guard Chilo Rachal, center Roberto Garza, tackle Gabe Carimi, guard Lance Louis and tackle J'Marcus Webb head to the locker room after the Chicago Bears win over the Detroit Lions October 22, 2012. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
What grade would you give the Bears' offensive line this season?
Updated: November 28, 2012 3:47PM
The phone call was made in search of an explanation that was not forthcoming, at least about a subject that has had Bears fans scratching their heads and pulling out their hair simultaneously.
How can an offensive line bullied by the 49ers dominate an above-average Vikings front seven six days later?
“It happens all the time,” said a veteran NFL scout who specializes in offensive line play. “Green Bay got shattered by New York [on Monday night]. They weren’t close to what they were capable of doing. Watch them this week.
“It’s human nature. I can’t explain it. Nobody can. If you could you would be a billionaire. If you could define human emotion when it comes to a football team or human performance we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. It happens. It just does.
“You wonder sometimes. You want to count on this and you want to count on that but you can’t count on anything. There’s an emotional factor and sometimes it rules the game.”
This scout shares his opinion about the Bears offensive line on one condition: “Keep my name out of it,” he says.
I prefer not to use anonymous sources but in this case it’s the only way to learn from someone who has studied every snap played by Bears offensive linemen this season. He will tell you what Mike Tice and Lovie Smith won’t without regard for bruised egos, locker room politics or organizational media policies.
Don’t expect a rip job, though, especially when it comes to second-year tackle Gabe Carimi, who was benched after being a big reason why the 49ers Aldon Smith had 5.5 sacks against the Bears on Monday night.
“He’s going to be all right,” the scout said of Carimi, who was the Bears first-round draft choice in 2011 before missing his rookie season with a dislocated kneecap. “He’ll re-establish himself. He wasn’t just a guy who got dominated. He had some breakdowns. He also had some very good plays.
“He got blamed a lot for the game in San Francisco but the guy playing on the other side [J’Marcus Webb] was equally guilty at times. I wouldn’t give up on Carimi. He’s a guy who will play there a long time.”
This scout has never been as down on left tackle J’Marcus Webb as the majority of Bears fans have been, and often with good reason. He sees a tackle that absorbs blows instead of inflicting them but insists that can be an effective approach with the proper footwork and technique.
He was especially impressed with how Webb responded to perhaps his worst effort of the season in San Francisco with one of his best against the Vikings.
“He took Jared Allen and pretty much won that battle across the board,” he said. “I don’t think he’s a quick-twitch athlete but he knows who he is and what he needs to do.”
When he says Jonathan Scott, who replaced Carimi at right tackle against the Vikings, is a lot like Webb, he doesn’t mean it as an insult. He knows all about the veteran Scott and was impressed by how he played against Vikings end Brian Robison, who was held to two tackles.
He agrees with Tice that Lance Louis was by far the Bears best offensive lineman this season but that doesn’t mean he believes the unit will derail the Bears after Louis was lost for the season with a torn ACL, which may force Carimi to move inside to guard.
“There are better lines but they’re good enough to keep on winning,” he said. “I don’t think people in Chicago should panic about what they have there. Keep in mind, an awful lot of it — more than an awful lot — has to do with the ability of the quarterback to move around and create second chances for himself. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better job of that than what [Cutler] did Sunday. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody put the ball in a two-foot window like he did eight times [against the Vikings]. Unbelievable.
“The week before, [backup quarterback Jason Campbell] didn’t do a very good job.”
The Bears aren’t alone. For whatever reason, inconsistent line play has become a league-wide epidemic. Not even the 49ers are immune. They played poorly up front when the Vikings pounded them 24-13 earlier this season.
“Sometimes there’s an urgency on a football team that’s difficult to define,” the scout said. “The 49ers had it against the Bears. The Bears had it against the Vikings. When the Vikings beat the 49ers, it was the other way around. Explain that one to me. Why that happens I can’t tell you.
“That’s why you have to be careful about throwing babies out with the bath water. You might be making a mistake. It might be Carimi benefits from this. I still think he’s going to be a good player.”