With GamePass up and running again, it's time to look back at some tape and remember what went right and wrong in 2011.
Reading 6 articles about the Bears' chances in 2012 and you'll be told the Bears' o-line needs to be improved a dozen times. True enough. But you're also likely to be told that the Bears are getting back their best offensive lineman from injury - Gabe Carimi. And you still read people thinking Carimi should be moved to left tackle.
I've got nothing against our first round draft choice from last year. But is that warranted praise?
Our line's problem is QB protection so I'm only looking at that. Since I'm lazy, and Carimi only appeared in 1.5 games last season, I'm limiting my thoughts to the five sacks given up when Carimi was on the field. You can read what our esteemed editor Lester made of them here.
First, let's write off the fifth sack which was more like a mobile alternative to a QB kneel - Cutler slid to avoid stopping the clock. Ordinarily, it would have been thrown out of bounds and no harm was done.
The fourth sack, too cannot be put down to the line. Cutler dropped the ball, picked it up and slid. Minus two yards, and a loss of a down. These things happen.
Onto the three proper sacks then. As described by Lester:
Sack 1 - 1st Quarter 2:42 John Abraham
At least the first sack of the year came against a Pro Bowl caliber pass rusher. Abraham took down Cutler for a 9 yard loss on 1st and 10. His sack was set up from pressure opposite him, left defensive end Ray Edwards bull rushed Bears right tackle Gabe Carimi and that made Cutler uncomfortable. Cutler was forced avert his eyes from down field and step back and into the oncoming rush of Abraham. Abraham beat J'Marcus Webb around the edge, but had Carimi not been bulled back Webb might have pushed Abraham right past Jay. Webb's initial kick step appeared to be too parallel to the line of scrimmage and that allowed Abraham to get the jump on Webb. This sack is on Webb.
Jay was on a 5 step drop. Watch this back and you'll see that Webb protects where Cutler was supposed to be adequately. But Carimi steps back too far, as if protecting a 7-step drop, which leaves Abraham virtually unobstructed. Webb's first step was bad but what he did ought to have been enough. I would pin this on Carimi, but at best it's joint responsibility.
Sack 2 - 2nd Quarter 15:00 John Abraham
Not a good start to the 2nd quarter for the Bears, taking a 3 yard loss on a 3rd and 9 sack from Abraham again. Abraham was lined up far outside of Webb, a tough block against a speed rusher, but Webb could have helped himself by opening up on his kick step a little more. He was again too parallel and that makes it tough to catch up to a speedy DE. Abraham simply ran past Webb, Cutler did step up to avoid the rush, but Abraham was relentless and chased down the sack. This one was on Webb again.
One mississippi, Two mississippi, Three mississippi, Four mississippi, Five-Sack. Again, Webb's first step was bad, but where was the open receiver? This is a borderline coverage sack. Something Marshall and Jeffery should be helping us with this year.
And Lester again (wasn't he in Red Dwarf?):
Sack 3 - 2nd Quarter 10:14 Kroy Biermann
This one is on the rookie Carimi. Biermann gave a hard upfield rush, then slipped back under Carimi's block, after pushing Carimi's inside arm up-field. That turned Carimi's shoulders, and that was all Bierman needed to quickly get underneath the block and make the sack.
Chris Spencer almost got Carimi off the hook, but Lester tells it the way it is.
They are the only three sacks Carimi and Webb have allowed on field together. The sample size is admittedly small, but I'd put sacks allowed by our tackles at Webb 1, Carimi 1.5.
Whether you agree with that analysis or not, Carimi has yet to prove himself as a quality right tackle in the NFL. He's yet to prove that he's even better than Webb. Both our tackles needed this offseason and both need to find their feet in the 2012 season. With a healthy Cutler, some weapons for him to throw to and a less suicidal offensive co-ordinator, there's no reason not to expect improvement from both of them.
What do you think? Who's our best tackle?