Friday, Jan. 21, 2011
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.
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 CSNChicago.com'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.