The offensive line of the Chicago Bears has had an up and down season to say the least. Through the personnel changes and position changes the big fellas have started to show some consistency. They're still not where they need to be, but they are clearly playing better than they were the first quarter of the season. Even though they've looked better as a group, one member of that line has continued to receive criticism. Rookie J'Marcus Webb. On Chicago radio, in the print media, and even here on WCG, I've seen people calling for his benching.
Back in week five (link will pop) I graded Webb's game against the Panthers. He graded a +40 out of 57 plays. It was his first start and I thought he played OK, but his youth showed and he looked lost on occasion. Since that game he's had some struggles, as all young players usually do, but now with nine games under his belt and coming off the disastrous Patriots game where no one seemed to play with any spunk, I thought this was a good time to grade him out once again.
As always I'll use the same basic grading system I know. A plus if he does his job, and a minus if he doesn't. I don't know specific assignments every play, but I'll make an educated guess. I'll spotlight a few plays.
+) The game started out promising for Webb, the first play from scrimmage for Chicago he pulled and engulfed the N.E. corner. He should have kicked him out, but the little DB went low so Webb plopped on him. Matt Forte cut up off the Webb block for a short gain.
+) On play two, they lined Webb up on the left side next to Frank Omiyale in an unbalanced line. Tight End Brandon Manumaleuna was on the wing also to the left, showing a pre-snap overload left. Manu motioned right, and the Bears ran that way. Webb engaged the DE and sealed him off long enough to get a plus.
- ) Play three and Webb's first mistake. He pulled like he did on the first play, but this time he let the DB go. It looked almost like he left him for the leading H-Back Greg Olsen, but the rule of thumb when pulling is first threat first. Maybe Webb was supposed to turn up and seal, but when he saw Devin McCourty standing there he should have kicked him out. McCourty made the tackle for a loss of two. On 3rd and 1 you don't let a guy run by you.
+) The first pass play came on the Bears next possession. On 1st and 10 the Bears lined up Omiyale over next to Webb in another unbalanced look. Cutler dropped back to pass the DE went towards Omiyale, Webb hit him and let him go looking for the OLB that stunted inside. Good recognition on the play.
+) Towards the end of the 1st quarter Webb had his first one on one pass blocking assignment. He was on an island with stand up DE Jermain Cunningham. He set up and stopped the pass rush, had a little slip, but kept his hands on the defender.
- ) On a 1st and 10 with 3:13 left in the half, Webb was late off the ball. It was just a split second, but noticeable enough. Roberta Garza pulled to the left, and my guess is Webb was supposed to block down. His hesitation allowed Eric Moore to tackle Forte for a 5 yard loss.
+) On a 2nd and 10 early in the 3rd quarter Forte was to Cutler's left and he took the hand off and ran 9 yards behind a good play by Webb. He crashed down then released to the 2nd level and sealed off a Patriot linebacker.
+) With just :32 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, Webb again showed good recognition on a pass play. On 1st and 10 Cutler threw deep and incomplete to Devin Hester. Webb helped down on Roberto Garza's man, then calmly picked up the stunting defensive lineman from the right.
- ) On the Bears first possession of the 4th quarter I gave Webb a minus, although the pass was complete and his man didn't get to Cutler. Webb setup beautifully as he has most of the game, but he let his man inside. Had Cutler held the ball for another split second he would have been hit. I'm a fairly generous grader, but I have a feeling Mike Tice would have been all over Webb for letting his man dip inside.
My general impression of Webb after breaking his play down was this kid didn't play like a rookie. He looked so much better in his pass blocking that he did the first time I graded him out. He moved his feet, he utilized a good hand punch, and he went low when he had to. Out of 45 offensive plays Webb only had 4 minuses. A +41 is really good for a kid in his 9th start. I was one of the people calling for Kevin Shaffer a couple weeks ago, but now I realize the Bears have to keep rolling with the kid at right tackle.
One other observation while re-watching the game is the Bears offense looked good in the 2nd half. Cutler was in serious catchup mode and forced those two picks, but the offense was moving the ball. The Bears just need to live with whatever rookie mistakes Webb makes, because he's more than capable of starting in the NFL.