Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice acknowledged the uneven performance by the o-line in the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills last Saturday night, but said he will stick with the current unit in hopes of an improved effort next Monday against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands.
Without naming names, Tice made it pretty clear that right guard Lance Louis and left tackle J'Marcus Webb need to make big improvements over their performances against the Bills.
''We had a handful of guys that played good, and I think those guys are evident,'' Tice said. ''We had a couple of guys that were on the cusp of playing winning football, but didn't. Then we had some guys that didn't play well.
''Not to call anyone out, I think everybody knows who those guys are. It was pretty evident. They're young. They need to improve this week. Normally from the first preseason game to the second, guys make a big jump. We're looking for that big jump. I thought they bounced back today at practice and practiced well.''
The Bears allowed nine sacks against the Bills, including four in 10 drop-backs by starter Jay Cutler and backup Caleb Hanie. But they also rushed for 164 yards on 35 carries (4.7 yards per carry), including 64 yards on 13 carries behind the first-team offensive line in the first half (50 yards on 11 carries by running backs).
''I'm more encouraged than I was at this point last year, when we were playing musical lines,'' Tice said. ''I felt we ran the ball pretty good, which we didn't do [well] at any point last preseason. So at least we can come out of it with that positive spin on it.
''You don't like the [sack] numbers. The numbers are there. But when you look at the tape and say, 'How many [sacks] did we account for?' We can clean up the ones that we're accountable for. I really believe that.''
Tice acknowledged that right guard Lance Louis was guilty of struggling after having played well in practice, but with an explanation.
''Maybe part of his weakness [that was exposed against the Bills] is he went against a guy who was drafted [No. 3] in the draft,'' Tice said, referring to Bills rookie defensive end Marcel Dareus. ''I mean the guy was drafted there for a reason. So anytime that you try to be overly aggressive with a guy and try to head-butt him and kill him, knock him off his feet and get yourself spread out, you're going to get beat.
''That's what happened to Lance on the two occasions. He got himself overextended. He's the guy that's been practicing extremely well. He was the guy I was a little bit surprised at. As well as he's been practicing, he gave up a couple of big plays, bad plays. I think he'll have a great week of practice and bounce back and play better this week.''
J'Marcus Webb, who improved as a rookie at right tackle last season but is playing left tackle this season, also left a lot of room for improvement. But Tice was most disappointed in reading Webb's postgame comments that he didn't match the intensity of Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman, the former Pro Bowl player with the Chargers. He said Webb needs to ''buck up'' to meet the challenge and responsibilities of his position.
''I have a problem with that - personally - that a player is saying that he didn't have the intensity level,'' Tice said. ''I mean, [bleep], after sitting around for five months you should have plenty of intensity built up inside you. So I'm a little disappointed by that.''
''He's got to practice better, and he's got to understand that we put a world of weight on his shoulders. He needs to step up, play better, and grow up quickly because he's out on an island. With our philosophy this year, hopefully we won't have to keep backs in and chip [so we can] get our guys out and [get] more looks for the quarterback to get rid of the ball. He needs to buck up.''
Carimi, the rookie from Wisconsin who started at right tackle after having played left tackle in college, was inconsistent, but better in the game than he had been in practice. He's staying at right tackle, Tice said.
''If he's going to be the player that he can ultimately be, I think he can be a great right tackle,'' Tice said. ''Gabe was just the opposite [of Louis and Webb]. Gabe has had some bad sets in [practice]. Gabe went out and his best sets of camp were in the game. He's a warrior and he's a player. The lights came on and he stepped up to the occasion.
''Yeah, he had a couple of dumb mental errors, but he's a rookie. Plays sound the same sometimes in the heat of the battle. But I thought he played well for his first time out of there. If he can continue to improve, we're really going to have a good one there."
Tice said backup center Chris Spencer, backup guard Edwin Williams and backup tackle Frank Omiyale played well. But it's too early to make changes. Unfortunately, with an offensive line in the preseason, it quickly becomes too late. Facing a good pass-rushing team like the Giants, who had 10 sacks against the Bears last year -- nine in the first half -- will be a good litmus test.
''I think it's important to stay the course right now,'' Tice said, ''and stay positive, continue to teach and continue to have them accept teaching and hard coaching, and push themselves farther than they think they can go, and see if we can improve in a big jump this week, and see if we carry it over to Monday night.''
Tice didn't profess to have any magic solution, but he was open to suggestions.
''I think everyone can sit here, all of us, and 100 percent identify what the problems are right now,'' Tice said. ''I'm acceptable to emails and suggestions if anybody has any other than, 'Work hard and get better.'
''Fortunately the guys that didn't play up to par or how they've been practicing are young guys. Young guys can get better in leaps and bounds where as veteran guys tend to - at this stage of their career - make the same mistakes, and it's hard to fix those mistakes because they're entrenched in their ways.
''What a great challenge, and what a great team to play against this week; a team that totally embarrassed us last year. So we should have a chip on our shoulder going into that game.''