Bears’ offensive line fails to impress in 10-3 win over Bills
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org August 13, 2011 6:56PM
D.J. Moore (30) and Tim Jennings tackle Bills tight end Scott Chandler on Saturday night. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: August 14, 2011 12:44AM
The Bears’ starters only made a cursory appearance in the preseason opener Saturday at Soldier Field, but the initial impression against the Buffalo Bills wasn’t overwhelmingly positive.
Bears quarterbacks were sacked nine times, and the starting offense mustered only 10 yards — when Jay Cutler was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled for a first down.
The Bears, however, pulled off a feat that eluded them last year: They won a preseason game.
They beat Buffalo 10-3, but their most beleaguered unit didn’t do anything to deflect the negative attention.
“Too much pressure on the quarterback,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We have to tighten that up a little bit.”
Offensive line coach Mike Tice will need more than an ordinary screwdriver to fix his group.
Cutler and backup Caleb Hanie were sacked four times, although the starting offensive line wasn’t entirely to blame for all of them.
“I don’t know what the issues were on a couple of sacks,” Hanie said, “whether it’s QB timing or whatever.”
But extensive knowledge of football intricacies wasn’t needed to realize the offense’s sixth play was a mess. On third-and-six from the Bears’ 35, left tackle J’Marcus Webb was knocked backward by Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman while right guard Lance Louis was smoked by rookie defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.
Dareus won the footrace to Cutler, and Webb was flagged for holding Merriman.
“I just had my head down, and he did a simple club move, and he made the sack,” Louis said. “It was all me.”
A tight end at San Diego State, Louis started the first four games last year before he was slowed by a knee injury and eventually replaced in the starting lineup. Enamored with Louis’ athleticism, the Bears are hopeful he can establish himself this season, and he appeared to have a strong start to training camp.
But Louis admitted Saturday was a setback.
“Honestly, I’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “My technique was all over the place, and I just feel real bad about the way I performed.”
Asked about the opportunity before him, Louis said, “I’m grateful, but I have to perform better and show them that I belong.
“I can’t afford to have this type of a game. I’m not a first-round pick. I’m not guaranteed anything.”
Tice said last week that his starting five is set, but it’s still unclear whether Roberto Garza is the team’s best bet at center — especially with Chris Spencer behind him — and if an available veteran might be needed to shore up the line.
For his part, Cutler emphatically backed his line.
“They were good,” he said. “They will be fine. There are some bright spots out there.”
Despite the victory, the Bears trailed 3-0 when most of the starters on offense and defense left the field after three series.
The Bears rallying to win shouldn’t come as a surprise; the Bills were 4-12 last season, so depth is definitely not a strength.
And the defending NFC North champion Bears showed off some of the players who accepted lesser deals to join them, most notably running back Marion Barber and defensive tackle Amobi Okoye.
Barber had 45 yards on seven carries, keying the game’s only touchdown drive early in the second quarter, and Okoye had both of the Bears’ sacks.
Another of the team’s ballyhooed free agents, receiver Roy Williams, only played in one series and didn’t have a pass thrown his way.
“It felt good,” Williams said of his Bears debut. “A little different not being in a Detroit Lions uniform on the other side, but it feels like home.”
The Bears play next Monday, Aug. 22, at the New Meadowlands against the New York Giants. Until then, after a day off, the Bears will return to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais on Monday to complete their final week of training camp.
There will be plenty to work on.
“We need to get better,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “That’s all there is to it.”