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.

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Rookie Deiondre' Hall flashed in the preseason a year ago, leading the Bears coaching staff and fans to believe they found something amidst their trio of 2016 fourth round draft picks. 

He’s hoping to do the same this August after overcoming one physical hurdle, while waiting to see if he can get past a legal hurdle he created for himself.

Let’s start on the field, where, just days after his first NFL interception in the fourth game last season, he sustained an ankle injury in practice, sidelining him for two months. Once his walking boot and scooter were finally put away, he was active for the final four games. But what progress he’d been making on the field was difficult to recapture.

“Just coming off the injury, there was a little rust here and there, but the training staff here’s great and I had to push through it,” Hall said at last week’s minicamp in Lake Forest after he was one of numerous Bears hit by the injury bug, but not one of the 19 who wound up on Injured Reserve. “(I was) getting comfortable with the defense and in myself playing with those guys out there, getting the opportunity in the red zone and making plays. But the injury kinda sucked because I haven’t really had an opportunity to play since Week 5, so I’m not necessarily starting fresh.”

As the offseason unfolded, Hall was informed the coaching staff was going to try him at safety, if not permanently, then as an option for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Northern Iowa product. 

But Hall’s not totally foreign to the position. He was a free safety his first year in college, then transitioned to outside linebacker/nickel as a sophomore, moved to cornerback as a junior before breaking his hand his senior year, playing through it back where he started at safety. So the decision wasn’t a big deal, especially if it enhances his chances to get on the field. But his preference?

“Defense. Opportunity,” Hall responded. “You get in where you fit in and the more you can do, the better it is for the team. If opportunity presents itself at corner, then I’m at corner. But right now at safety, I’m making strides (there) and keep pushing for that.”

“We’re gonna float him back and forth,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last month, after the Bears signed free agent cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in the off-season, while Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc are expected to battle for slot duty and former first-rounder Kyle Fuller and veterans Johnthan Banks and B.W. Webb hope to impress. “He (Hall) had some experience there in college. When it comes down to picking your team and you’re taking nine or 10 DBs, if someone’s got versatility to play both of those spots, that helps, so we’re gonna see if he’s one of those guys.”

But before Hall gets back to work in Bourbonnais, he’ll find out if he has some other dues to pay. Hall was back at his alma mater’s Cedar Falls campus March 26th when he and a former UNI teammate were arrested outside a bar called Sharky’s. Police had responded to a call, and by the time all was said and done, Hall needed to be tased before being arrested on charges of public intoxication, interference (with an arrest), and disorderly conduct. 

The case was continued late last month and Hall’s jury trial is scheduled for July 11th. Pending the outcome, he could face disciplinary action from the team and the NFL. He’s told his side of the story to Bears management and while expressing remorse for putting himself in the situation, Hall says it wasn’t in character and feels confident in what the outcome will be.

“People make mistakes and the truth always comes out,” the 23-year-old said, adding the situation isn’t weighing on his mind or affected his preparation in off-season workouts. “You gotta let people make their own mistakes. I won’t shed light but the truth always comes out, and (I’ve learned) just don’t take anything for granted.”

“My main focus is football and keep pushing to make strides to become good, and great.”

Bears announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule: