Chicago Sun-Times

Tice: Garza starting at center, line set -- for now

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Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice gave it to us straight -- or as straight as he could give it to us -- when he talked with reporters after the Bears practiced Sunday night at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

The highlights:

1. The starting center's job is Roberto Garza's to lose. It was assumed that free agent Chris Spencer would inherit the job vacated when captain Olin Kreutz could not come to contract terms. But not only is Spencer not being handed the starting job, he's not even competing for it, Tice said.

''I'm pleased Chris Spencer is coming along nicely and I think what we'll do right now as we get through that first game, we'll leave everybody be, evaluate that first game and see if we need to split some reps [between] Roberto or Spencer,'' Tice said. ''But right now the way things are going and how they're improving every day and [with] all the good things I've seen, I'm not really in the sense that I need to change anything right now.

2. The starting offensive line is set until anybody proves they don't deserve to be there: J'Marcus Webb at left tackle, Chris Williams at left guard, Garza at center, Lance Louis at right guard and rookie Gabe Carimi at right tackle. It is worth pointing out that of those five players, only Williams -- considered the weakest link -- started more than four games at his current position last season.

''Let's get something straight: I have a five starting linemen right now. Unless the five starting linemen falter, that's who's opening the season against Atlanta,'' Tice said. ''There's not a competition. So don't write that. Because whoever's writing that is wrong.

''Right now I'm not seeing that falter. What I'm seeing is improvement every day. That's what I'm looking for. Now, if something happens in the game against Buffalo, somebody doesn't step up to the plate because of the added pressure of the game, then we have to create something. But right now I don't see that. I don't' feel that either.''

3. Chris Williams, the former first-round draft pick who has been moved from left tackle to right tackle to left tackle to left guard and even had a few snaps at center early in training camp, is ''getting better'' at left guard, where he started the final 13 games last season.

''We pointed out some things for Chris to work on - anchoring with his base, trying to keep his feet in the ground more,'' Tice said. ''He's such a good athlete. Sometimes great athletes -- and he's a great athlete for a big man, we've all seen him run -- tend to be up on their toes, because they are athletic. I'm trying to get him to play more with his heels in the ground. If he can do that, that's going to help him anchor. That's going to help him in pass protection. He's working diligently at it. He's getting better every day.''

4. Lance Louis, who started at right guard last year before being replaced by Edwin Williams, who in turn was replaced by Garza when Garza returned from an injury, is starting at right guard again in camp, but could stay there -- or at least in the starting lineup -- for good this time, because he has improved since last year.

''Absolutely,'' Tice said. ''He's bigger, more physical [than last season]. He was physical last year, but he's a guy who's had some experience. He's played in some games. He has more confidence. He's communicating better. He's opening his mouth.

''He such an elite pass protector. He was an elite pass protector last year. But he's doing better in the run game. He can run now -- he played tight end. He's definitely a head of where he was last year.''

Of course, Tice really liked Louis a lot last year too. Still, even to the naked eye, Louis looks like a better player in camp this season.

''Last year I anointed him the right buard because I looked at him and thought, 'This could really help us.' '' Tice said. ''And then he got a couple of nicks and bruises and didn't play through it, because of maturity. This year he's come in with a different determination and different maturity and we're real pleased with where Lance is at right now. Very pleased.''

5. Garza is developing a good rapport with quarterback Jay Cutler, for whatever that's worth.

''We've had one mishandled snap, if I recall,'' Tice said. ''They're doing good with their exchanges [and] with the communication. There's some anxiety there for Roberto. He's only started one game at center in his career. At first I don't know if he was totally embracing it. But he's such a team player, he's going to do what we ask him to do.

''I think there is a chemistry. He doesn't have the same awareness and those type things an Olin Kreutz has, but he's a veteran guy, he's been around a long time. He knows football.''

6. Despite have four players in new positions this season, Tice is encouraged by the line's progress in the first 10 days of camp.

''We're light years ahead of where we were last year. Last year we were moving guys around, trying to find out who should be at what position. You had an offseason in shorts and you thought you had the right idea. They're new to you. You get pads on ... it was a little different.

''This year, great work. We have the same five guys in there. They're getting better every day. Every day on film they're doing a lot more good than they're doing bad. And that's real encouraging. Because I don't know that at any point in camp last year we had that.''

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8 Comments

I would like to address number 2, yes number 2, because number 2 is really a number 2..

"The starting offensive line is set until anybody proves they don't deserve to be there"

So Williams who stank last year, and has stunk this year has proved he deserves to be there? How did he do that exactlly? This number 2 really stinks.

"''There's not a competition. So don't write that. Because whoever's writing that is wrong"

Did somebody tell Tice the reason people have been writing about competition is because Lovie, Martz, Marinelli, and Angelo have all talked about competition and how great competition is and how everyone is competing.

Lets see Lance Louis is an elite Pass Protector. So that's why they replaced him last year is because he was an elite pass protector in a high powered passing offense? And they replaced him with Edwin Williams yes the Edwin Williams, can you blame the Bears, I mean who could hold back Edwin Williams?

What's intresting is that of the three RG's last year Williams probably played the best, Garza is a bad pass blocker and I can't say much for his run blocking. Louis was not terrible, but he was lost on the field to often and pretty much below average at Pass blocking and run blocking. I remember when lined up against Suh, he kind of got abused. At 6'3 320 pounds last year I am wondering how much bigger Louis got as Tice claimed. Did he get taller or fatter, cause 320 is plenty big. He must of got taller.

"''We're light years ahead of where we were last year"

That's great, I can coun't on them not giving up more than 20 sacks this year. I mean it's not like they talked about how great the line played last year. Oh wait they did say that last year, and talked about how much they improved. They always improved until they played good teams, and they really loved what the line was doing last year.

Now I don't doubt they will improve from last year. I mean you can't really get any worse. What I find most intresting is Tice said moving guys around last year didn't help, so the first thing they did was Move, Webb and Garza, start Louis after he didn't battle anyone for the spot, start a new RT, and the only starter from last year in the same spot, entrenched at his well earned LG spot is Chris Williams. This sounds like the makings of a great O-Line, Rookies always excell, switching a career guard to center at 32 years of age, moving a second year seventh round pick from RT where he sucked to LT is always a good move(see Chris Williams), and starting a RG who you benched last year and who became your backup to your backup is now the starter after not competing for a job. What on earth could go wrong? Well they did bring in a TE who could actually block and Omiylae is not a starter, so that's all good, BM was a train wreck and so was Omiyale. So basically I am hoping this is the best blocking TE ever.

I fee lso much better after that interview everything will be just fine. Sacks may even drop from the mid to high 50's to the mid to high 40's.

The Bears might have something in Lance Louis, again, like I've commented on here before, I hope he does come on. The Bears need a young lineman like Louis to develop to add some youth and a little strength inside, and of course continuity, which is key for any line. Tice needs to get his starting five ironed out before week one, whoever the starting five ends up being need reps going into the season.

To me, I don't know if its gonna be Garza faltering at center that gets Chris Spencer into the starting lineup, I think it might be Chris Williams thats on the bubble right now. Williams is the guy I think Tice is gonna keep a close eye on vs Buffalo in the pre-season opener. If Williams does falter (which I hope he doesn't) I can see Tice moving him out of the starting lineup and putting Spencer in at center and going with Garza and Louis at guards. This will be something to keep an eye on.

I tell you a player that might be working out. First, you ever hear the old saying, "if you never hear an offensive linemans name called that usually means their doing good"? Well, I haven't heard much about left tackle J'Marcus Webb so far in camp. Now, I know to reserve judgement till after some game reps, but that might be a good thing not hearing much about Webb, he's another player that really needs to come on for Chicago.

If Chris Williams does falter, I can see the line being LT Webb, LG Louis, C Spencer, RG Garza, and RT Carimi. Tice might want a vet like Garza to line up next to rookie Carimi? If Williams makes it, the line will probably stay how it is right now. This is going to be interesting, I just hope Tice gets his starting 5 quick so he can work on some continuity, that will be the key to the line and the overall success of the offense this season GO BEARS!!

Here's some thoughts on the Bears new o-line from a guy who certainly knows football:

"I think it was a horrible decision on their part, especially with all the turmoil that they've had on the offensive line for a long time," [Ruben] Brown, who played guard for the Bears from 2004-07, told WSCR-AM 670's Joe Ostrowski on Sunday. "They finally got a quarterback in (Jay) Cutler and they get rid of probably the most important piece to the offensive line and that's Olin Kreutz and his leadership, and that's going to be really tough to replace."

The Bears may have saved money by signing veteran free agent Chris Spencer instead of retaining Kreutz, but Brown says they will pay a steep price.

"They're going to look back and regret not going that extra distance (in pay)," Brown said. " It's going to be cheap in the long run with the number (the sides were $500,000 apart) that they were negotiating over, but they're going to be sad that they didn't pay that money to keep a legend.

In fact I am so sure that the Bears will not cut Chris Williams, and if they do, I will be outside Soilder Field in a hot pink panties that say spank me, singing the Crackers Happy birthday to me while holding up a sign that reads Brando rules and I suck.

I was having a good sleep
in my car
In the, parking lot of the
Showboat Casino hotel

I say, "I remember you
you drive like a PTA mother"
You brought me draft beer
in a plastic cup

I'm feeling thankful
for the small things, today
I'm feeling thankful
for the small things, today

Happy, Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me
and to you

Happy, Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me
and to you-ah

Just a teaser.

I still cannot believe this move by the BEARS with letting Kruetz leave to New Orleans without a quality replacement in place. Now what the Bears have is literally no continuity in the O line, is there one position that the starter from last year stays in their previous position.

At the present time, if the season started today, correct me if I am wrong.

New left tackle Jmarcus Webb from Right Tackle or is it Omiyale
Left Guard Chris Williams (maybe) half season at Left guard last year
Center Garza (we traded Kruetz) to put Garza in at Center?
Left Guard Louis
Left Tackle Jmarcus Webb now it is either Carimii or Omiyale

The Bears could have had some continuity for 2011 with at least 3 starters at the same position (Kruetz, Williams and Garza) but now we have one in Williams who finished the season at Left Guard and he is considered questionable.

Yikes! I am worried about the O line, maybe getting O'hara who is supposed to be ready to play soon, might be a good answer at least he used to be a mauler with the Giants.


Kevin read the article, Tice already named his starting 5. These are the starting 5 unless someone gets hurt.

It's intresting to see that the recievers are competing, the D-Line is competing, the secondary is competing, even the running backs are comepting. Now continuity is a great thing for a line and I understand in the case of the O-line he does not have time for a competition, but I am a little surprise about the lack of competition at the guard position. I get the Garza move, and we all new Webb was moving and most figured Carimi was going to plug in at right tackle. Of the two guards Louis probably has the best shot of developing, I am sick of hearing about how athletic Chris Williams is, talking about how fast he runs. Who cares he is a linemen and he sucks at it.

You know a big part of me is expecting a lot of running this year. The Bears have three backs who have all been starters, Carimi, Webb, Garza, and Louis(I don't care what Tice says about him) are all better run blockers and kinda suck in pass protection. I don't mean to say they won't pass the ball a lot, but I figure they are going try and maintain that balance they tried for in the second half of last year and probably shorten up a lot of the drops to 3 step. A lot of dink and dunk and then sucker them into well timed big plays to keep the opponent honest. I have heard a lot people saying Martz will get his way and pass, pass, pass. but that does not seem right after all his mistakes last year. Why reward a guy for messing up. Bears have always liked to use the media for smoke screens. Not sure if that is the direction they are going for, but it kinda feels that way.

Intresting note on the D-line. L. Holmes was talking about the defense and Paea, and pointed out that Paea looks a lot more like a NT than he does a UT and plays a lot like a NT. I happen to agree with him, mostly because I said that about him the day they drafted him, I hope they play him there to spell Adams, and let Okye and Melton handle the UT spot.

Sean where is Wootton lining up, and I have not read anything about Gholston.

Hey Creighton, how long do you give Cutler til he gets hurt? The only possible improvement I see with Kreutz gone is that the Bears seem like they're going to run even more than last season, so Cutler won't have as many opportunities to get sacked. But I don't see how the line isn't even worse than last season. And the Bears didn't even try to get the former New Orleans center, who's clearly better than Spencer, who can't even beat out a guard.

Creighton, I wish you would hold out for the whole year! You are a "know-it-all" that doesn't know what he is talking about! SHUT UP already!!! GO BEARS!

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on August 7, 2011 11:32 PM.

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