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Mike Tice has new issue to tackle for Bears

Lance Louis Marcus Harrison

Lance Louis, Marcus Harrison

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Updated: December 1, 2011 8:47AM

The offensive line has turned in winning performances in back-to-back games, which raises a question for offensive line coach Mike Tice: Should he insert rookie first-round draft pick Gabe Carimi back into the starting lineup at right tackle or leave things alone?

One NFC pro personnel evaluator, who specializes in studying offensive linemen, has an even more radical idea: flip-flop tackles J’Marcus Webb and Lance Louis.

“Webb looks like a right tackle to me with those big, long arms but somehow he gets the job done,” the scout said. “I thought he did an exceptional job against [Vikings defensive end] Jared Allen. It was one of those emotional games, and I think the level of emotion was higher for the Bears than the Vikings for whatever reason. But I still think he has done a good job. He’s holding his own there.

“You’d think they’d put Louis over on that side because he’s a little more of an athlete, but he’s holding his own at right tackle.”

The observation isn’t so much a knock on Webb as a testament to the job Louis has done since replacing an ineffective Frank Omiyale. A former tight end who was moved to guard at San Diego State, Louis has shown he is capable of getting in front of pass-rushing defensive ends and staying there as a tackle. His emergence, coupled with solid play by Chris Spencer, creates a dilemma few foresaw when the line was being run over by the New Orleans Saints and the Detroit Lions.

Carimi was exceeding expectations at right tackle before partially dislocating his kneecap. If he returns to the starting lineup, Louis could move back to guard and Spencer to the bench.

“If you have a goose that is laying golden eggs, you don’t mess with the goose,” the scout said. “If they’re winning, I’d stay with that. You’re setting [Carimi] back a little bit but he’s going to be much, much better a year from now no matter what because he’s a quality kid and a quality player. It does help to get your feet wet but if you’re rolling and doing good you should stay with it.”

The scout wants to make it clear that he believes Tice is one of the finest offensive line coaches in the game and doesn’t need his advice.

This is the second time Carimi has partially dislocated his kneecap. The last thing the Bears want is for the injury to become chronic, so there’s no reason to rush Carimi’s recovery.

General manager Jerry Angelo and Tice have spoken often about continuity, which the line now has for the first time this season. Then again, the sooner Carimi is in the lineup, the sooner that configuration could gain continuity.

“Every week we’re getting better with communication, are getting more and more on the same page,” Spencer said. “Now it’s just each man taking the technique we work on in practice to the game and over the last couple weeks, it has been showing up. Now we’re jelling. When you can do your individual job in a game that’s when it starts to come together and you jell as a unit. A guy doesn’t have to say anything, you trust he’ll get his job done and he knows you will get your job done.”

The scout likes what he has seen from the Bears line in recent weeks, especially when it comes to pulling and getting out in front of Matt Forte. He believes the pieces are coming together for the unit to be successful not only this season but into the future regardless who Tice and Smith opt to start at right tackle against the Eagles on Nov. 7.

“We have gone with this lineup for the last couple weeks,” Smith said. “We feel good about it. When injured players come back we put them in the mix. We’ve gotten Gabe back in the mix. The line we played last week played as well as we’ve played in a while. These are easy decisions to make once you have your entire ballclub on the field practicing. They’ll tell us what we need to do.”

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