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J’Marcus Webb’s presence in 4th quarter shows Bears’ line has work to do

“I didn’t think it was punishment. I’ve got get better” J’Marcus Webb said playing fourth. | Getty Images

“I didn’t think it was punishment. I’ve got to get better,” J’Marcus Webb said of playing in the fourth. | Getty Images

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Updated: September 12, 2012 6:09AM



J’Marcus Webb was looking at the bright side Thursday night when the Bears’ starting left tackle was asked what he was doing on the field against third- and fourth-stringers in the fourth quarter of the first preseason game.

‘‘I think of it as a time to get better,’’ Webb said. ‘‘I’m a young player, and if the team needs me to stay in, then I will.’’

That’s a great attitude, if nothing else. But even Webb probably knows the reality of the situation. On a night when Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher didn’t play, Lance Briggs played one series and rookies and free agents played most of the game, the Bears’ m.o. was clear: The only reason any player was out there past the first quarter was because he needed the work.

By that measurement, Mike Tice’s discontent Thursday night with his offensive line was easy to discern. Center Roberto Garza, right guard Lance Louis and right tackle Gabe Carimi were out midway through the second quarter. But Webb and Chris Spencer played through the first half. Webb became more and more conspicuous as he played into the fourth quarter, helping keep Broncos third-string defensive end Cyril Obiozor away from Bears fourth-string quarterback Matt Blanchard.

‘‘I didn’t think it was punishment,’’ Webb said. ‘‘I’ve got to get better. If he asks me to stay in, then I will.’’

We don’t know Tice’s motivation for certain because the Bears won’t make their offensive coaches available to the media until Monday. But Tice’s actions spoke louder than his words Thursday. At worst, he was resorting to a last-ditch effort that coaches are loathe to use — embarrassment — to light a fire under Webb. At the least, it was tacit acknowledgement of Tice’s disappointment with Webb and the line in general. Your starting left tackle shouldn’t be playing in the fourth quarter of the first preseason game.

By the same token, that it was the first preseason game was the good news for an offensive line that did nothing to quell fears that it will short-circuit what could be the Bears’ best offense of the post-Sid Luckman era. There are still four weeks before the regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 9 at Soldier Field.

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a total waste.

‘‘We put stuff on film,’’ Garza said, ‘‘and we have to get better. That’s not the start we wanted. It comes down to creating running lanes and protecting our quarterback. We didn’t do a good job of that. We need to do our jobs better. It’s evident. And we will.’’

For what it’s worth, the Bears’ offensive line was even worse in the preseason opener last year against the Buffalo Bills and improved from there before injuries took a toll in the regular season. In that game, the Bears gained two yards on nine plays in the first quarter and allowed three sacks. But by the third preseason game, they gained 239 yards and didn’t allow a sack of Cutler in the first half against the Tennessee Titans.

‘‘We’ve got some work to do. We can only get better from here,’’ right guard Lance Louis said. ‘‘We wanted to run the ball better and protect better. We’re going to watch the tape and look at our techniques and just get better. We still have a ways to go.’’

The offensive line has two things in its favor: time and Tice. Cutler and Forte playing in the next game, against the Washington Redskins on Aug. 18 at Soldier Field, figures to provide an additional boost.

‘‘Offensively, we weren’t able to establish anything with the run, and the protection wasn’t good. We’re not ready for prime time yet,’’ said coach Lovie Smith, as direct and succinct as he can be in a postgame analysis. ‘‘But we’ll hit the practice field as soon as we can and start making necessary improvement.’’



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