Ghostbuster? Webb can clear path to Super Bowl


Ghostbuster? Webb can clear path to Super Bowl

Friday, Jan. 21, 2011
9:59 p.m.

By John Mullin

JMarcus Webb has less than a full NFL season behind him. The rookie tackle was the Bears seventh-round pick in this years draft, the 218th player selected, and he began the season on the inactive list. Not much was expected, not this season at least.

Week one, he was an afterthought, line coach Mike Tice said of the rookie who had the size (6-7, 328 pounds) but hardly the pedigree, coming from two years at smallish West Texas A&M after a sophomore season at Navarro (Tex.) College.

Webb is an afterthought no longer.

He is now a game away from a Super Bowl and preparing to face down one of the frontrunners for NFL defensive player of the year in rush-linebacker Clay Matthews and his 13-12 sacks, 83 combined tackles and uncharted quarterback hits.

Webb has not seen all that much of the NFL. He was a backup for the first Green Bay game and did not become the starting right tackle until Game five against Carolina. And he struggled, mightily at times, and still occasionally does.

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Every week theres some new ghost that shows up and scares the hell out of him and thats just the way it is with young players, Tice said. It takes time and it may take more than next year even.

He knows what is coming

One of those ghosts, more than one even, may show up Sunday. And Webb knows it.

Matthews is definitely one of the defensive players of the year, Webb said. He deserves that.

But the high-motor style and techniques of Matthews are only part of the problem. Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers is an innovator with the 3-4 defense in no small part because of his use of defensive backs, linemen and linebackers to create instances requiring split-second decisions.

The thing is that they do things to confuse you, Webb said. They show different things and then with players like Matthews, reigning NFL defensive player of the year Charles Woodson and the linemen, they have the ability to create situations that you have to adjust to.

But Webb will have help in dealing with a pass rush that recorded 50 sacks and ranks No. 3 in sacks per pass play.

Theyre going to bring guys from all over, said tight end Greg Olsen. Theyre not just going to line up in a basic four-down linemen and just rush four guys off the edge. Theyre going to be multiple.

The guys that are responsible for blitz pickups not just the linemen the backs, the tight ends, the receivers on the hots reads and sights adjustments have to be really dialed in this week because they do try to come after the quarterback a lot.

Good adjustments

Webb has made adjustments, many of them. He was almost exclusively a left tackle in college and may ultimately move to that position for the Bears.

But the Bears immediate and critical need was at right tackle after Frank Omiyale was shifted from right to left after Chris Williams hamstring injury at Dallas. Kevin Shaffer started two games at right tackle before the decision was made to live with Webbs learning curve and have Shaffer as the short-yardage tight end and swing tackle.

Webb was beaten for sacks. He will be beaten for sacks. But I dont know if 38 years of coaching that Ive seen a player make this radical of improvement in the short time he has, said coordinator Mike Martz. For a young man to come in like he has and deal with the pressure of the playoffs, big games, all these game at the end of the year that are so meaningful for us, and continue to get better and have the poise he has demonstrated is really remarkable. Im very pleased and proud of where he is.

Test the kid

The Packers are expected to find out exactly where Webb is on Sunday.

Everybody is going to try to take a look at that and see if you can make him hesitant with certain things, Martz said. Thats automatic for any young player and certainly no different for him.

Whats remarkable about him is early he made the normal rookie mistakes, was indecisive and it hurt a little bit but hes past that. Hes playing like a veteran right now. That indecisiveness, hes fought through that. Hes not intimidated or anything.

What Webb has done to reduce the chances of intimation has been to study as he never has before. He is quick to credit center Olin Kreutz and right guard Roberto Garza with in-game support as well as learning how to learn.

Its just so much more complex, Webb said. Its mostly your assignment and doing your job, sticking to it, and not getting embarrassed in film sessions.

And in NFC Championship games.

John "Moon" Mullin is's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Thoughts from Bears-Broncos: Injury absences, special teams woes and a world of confusion over new helmet rule


Thoughts from Bears-Broncos: Injury absences, special teams woes and a world of confusion over new helmet rule

No Roquan Smith but Bears injury absences vs. Broncos far more troubling
No real surprise that coaches decided to hold linebacker Roquan Smith out, given that the rookie had exactly one practice in pad and two without pads last week after signing his contract on Monday. But it was not Smith’s absence that was concerning coming out of the Bears ____ loss to the Denver Broncos.
Linebacker Leonard Floyd, who has been hampered by injuries in each of this first two Bears seasons, went out midway through the first half with an unspecified hand injury and did not return. Tight end Adam Shaheen, starting his second straight game after three catches for 53 yards at Cincinnati, caught a first-quarter pass from Mitchell Trubisky but left the field on a cart after injuring his ankle during the ensuing tackle.
Along with Floyd’s absence, the pass rush was again without outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who hasn’t been on the field since the first practice of training camp, that after missing play time with ankle twisted in the first April minicamp practice and with a hamstring strain in a June minicamp practice.
The Bears did get a sack from Roy Robertson-Harris, his third in as many games and likely establishing him as the starting defensive end opposite Akiem Hick in the Bears’ base 3-4.
First quarter not-so-special teams
Repeating a pattern from some years past, Bears kick returns did the offense no favors early, with multiple mistakes in first quarter alone:
Recently signed running back Knile Davis took the opening kickoff six yards deep in the end zone and got it only to the Chicago 15;
After the first Denver three-and-out, Cre’Von LeBlanc fair-caught a punt at the Chicago 5 instead of gambling on a touchback. Three plays later Mitch Trubisky mishandled a high snap and was sacked in the end zone for a safety.
On the free kick, reserve tight end Ben Braunecker lost contain and contributed to a 17-yard return by Isaiah McKenzie, setting the Broncos up at their 40, from where they moved for a first-quarter field goal. After that field goal, Davis returned the Denver kickoff 43 yards but the runback was nullified by a holding penalty.
Throw in Cody Parkey’s missed field goal from 52 yards and Bears special teams combined for one of the poorer possible quarters short of allowing a touchdown return.
Helmet hi-jinks
And the league thought it had problems with the catch rule?
The NFL’s leading-with-the-helmet prohibition and its enforcement bordering on the bizarre reared its ugly head early  flag on Denver cornerback Isaac Yiadom for his tackle of Bears tight end Adam Shaheen defies explanation. Yiadom got his head in front of Shaheen’s quads in a textbook go-low tackle with minimal risk to either player but was hit with a 15-yard penalty. Not sure what Yiadom was supposed to lead with? His feet?
Then Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller drew a leading-with-the-helmet when he went shoulder-first into tight end Andy Janovich, while Denver left tackle Garrett Bolles went helmet-first into a basic cut block on linebacker Leonard Floyd and drew no flag.
Duly noted
Quirky rules and their enforcement don’t account for a worrisome spate of penalties (eight through three quarters) that cost the Bears more than 100 yards. 
In the first half alone, besides the Fuller flag, tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie drew holding penalties, and a holding penalty on the kickoff-return team negated a 43-yard return by Knile Davis. Tight end Ben Braunecker was tagged for pass interference.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Should Roquan Smith make his debut against the Broncos?


Sports Talk Live Podcast: Should Roquan Smith make his debut against the Broncos?

Seth Gruen, Chris Emma and Matt Zahn join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester pitches like Jon Lester again and the offense does just enough to win in Pittsburgh. Jim Deshaies joins the guys to talk about the Cubs.


Should Roquan Smith make his preseason debut in Denver? Plus the Ohio State controversy takes a salacious turn. Will Urban Meyer keep his job when the investigation wraps up Sunday?


Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: