Everyone knows the winning hopes of the Chicago Bears run through team leaders like Brian Urlacher and Jay Cutler. The harder truth is the championship hopes rest with key players like J'Marcus Webb and Stephen Paea. Can the team count on them?
Scouts and coaches who watch tape on J'Marcus Webb have to scratch their heads sometimes. Few left tackles around the NFL have the tools he does. He has the size, the long arms, the mobility and the strength to combat any pass rusher in the league. So why does the 23-year-old keep struggling? Two big reasons come to mind for offensive coordinator Mike Tice. The first is poor technique whether it's the use of his hands or getting out of his stance. That can get fixed with constant practice and coaching. Unfortunately the other is Webb's head. Too many times in the past the young tackle has looked somewhat passive in an NFL game, lacking the mean streak and tenacity the best linemen have. It's not that he doesn't work hard but more that he doesn't go full speed all the time. Maybe that is why Tice has put teammate Chris Williams in a roster battle for the left tackle job. Some players need a push, a sense of fear to play at their best. Tice clearly thinks the threat of Williams will either snap Webb into shape or force him to quit. Either way the Bears have their answer. Much depends on the next one or two preseason games. If Webb plays well against two pretty good defenses, Chicago fans can relax a little. If Jay Cutler gets hit too much he'll find a nice, warm seat on the bench.
Paea and Henry Melton still on pace for a good NFL year
Bears fans probably groaned when they heard defensive tackle Stephen Paea got spotted at training camp wearing a walking boot. After a rough preseason opener they have already started questioning whether the second-year player can live up to the supposedly great training camp he has had. Thankfully the team can expect him back in a week or two, just in time for the dress rehearsal game against the defending champion Giant. While most eyes will stay on Jay Cutler and the offense may fans want to see if Paea and teammate Henry Melton can give the Bears the inside pass rush needed for their defense to work. An ankle injury is a setback but all signs said Paea looked very good in practice. His quiet night against Denver had more to do with a vanilla game plan and lack of help with Urlacher and Julius Peppers both out. The truth will come out when things get serious at Soldier Field against Indianapolis. Fans can feel free to panic if Paea doesn't show up then.
J'Marcus Webb and Stephen Paea have time on their side. They're young and talented. All they need is the confidence and knowledge to use it. The Chicago Bears have the coaches to help, but it rests on them to connect the dots.