I spent a lovely day at Chicago Bears training camp today. I decided to spend some time watching the Chicago Bears offensive line during drills. Last season, the Chicago Bears spent a first round selection on Gabe Carimi out of Wisconsin. After injuring his knee last season, the jury is still out on Carimi. The three headed monster at tackle also features J’Marcus Webb and Chris Williams. Webb has showed signs during his two-year career as an undrafted player out of West Texas A & M, but hasn’t sustained any consistency. Williams has shifted from tackle to guard back to tackle after being selected in the first round out of Vanderbilt. He played well at guard last season before injuring his wrist midway through the season and missing the remaining games while on injured reserve.
Carimi and Williams showed some skills during one-on-one and two-on-two blocking drills, while Webb was unimpressive to say the least. Now granted, Webb had the responsiblity of blocking future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers, but he failed to make a difference. His best blocking moments appeared to be holds.
While Carimi enters his second year, his knee isn’t 100%. Carimi is still working his way back to playing shape, and hasn’t been able to extend himself during practice. The Bears still expect big things from Carimi, and I am not suggesting he won’t provide it, but it is a concern that his dislocated knee from last season still hasn’t recovered. To refresh your memory, after sustaining the injury in week two against the New Orleans Saints, the Bears originally called it a four-to-six week injury. As the season progressed, the Bears elected to place Carimi on injured reserve. Cosnidering the original time frame and where things stand today, there has to be concerns.
Williams also has had a past with injuries. When the Bears drafted him in first round of the 2008 draft, back issues kept him out of action for most of his rookie season. He also has had various other dings and dents along the way. Granted, last seasn he dislocated his wrist (a similar injury to what Brian Urlacher suffered in 2009), but injuries seem to follow this guy around. This is a big year for Williams, and hopefully he can live up to being a former first round selection. I’m sure Williams doesn’t want to be on the long list of former general manager Jerry Angelo’s failed first round selections.
Assuming Carimi is ready by the opening game at right tackle (that is what he is saying), Webb and Williams are competing for the starting left tackle position. Considering the importance of this position in protecting the quarterback’s blindside, this isn’t very reassuring for Chicago Bear fans. Granted it is very early in camp, but I expect that competition should make these guys stronger. From my perspective, Williams seems to have the edge. But this isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.
Focusing on fundamentals, Carimi has a strong base and quick feet. When he is able to square up a defender, he does a good job moving. Considering his knee isn’t 100 percent, he is able to use his natural gifts as well as intelligence. Williams has his moments, but I am concerned about his base. He isn’t as strong as I would like, but like Carimi, can outsmart made defenders and use his technique well. Webb is purely frustrating. He has some natural talent, but can get clumsy with his technique and lose focus. He can defeat defenders with pure strength, but his footwork leaves a lot to be desired. Webb is a physical specimen, but he can get outsmarted and outworked. This doesn’t help his case as an NFL starting left tackle.
Former offensive line coach and current offensive coordinator Mike Tice has made Webb his personal project. Going into year three, it would be nice to see the project begin to pay off. Even Tice has called out Webb for various things. If Webb wants to survive in the NFL, he needs to make this his year.
Going into the season, I thought the offensive line may actually be a strength for this team. After leaving camp today, I’ve decided that the interior of the line will be strong. If the tackles can even play average, the Chicago Bears will be fine. Let’s hope this is the case.
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