If the past couple of seasons have shown nothing else, they have underscored the reality that having a set-it-and-forget-it offensive line just doesn’t work in Chicago. The Bears fielded three different left guards in the first half of a game last season, and few areas of the offense have undergone the tumult that has played out in the area that most benefits from stability.
[Viewers Guide: Wide receivers still searching for answers]
Ironically, one of the individuals who never missed a snap last season (or the year before) was J’Marcus Webb, who has played his way out of a starting job at right tackle onto a true roster bubble.
Whether or not he can play his way off of it against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night is problematic.
[Viewers Guide: No. 3 job at stake for running backs]
“He's had a couple penalties,” said offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer. He's got to eliminate them. That's his responsibility and he's working on it.
“Every game is a big game, every evaluation, every meeting he goes to.”
The Bears are likely to keep eight (and no more than nine) offensive linemen. That means a premium on versatility after the starters.
Webb had that with his experience over 44 consecutive starts at both right and left tackle. The swing tackle, exactly as you would draw one up.
[Viewers Guide: Finding an emergency QB who can manage a game]
Except that Webb’s slide has been precipitous, to the point where it is unclear whether Jonathan Scott, out all preseason with a knee injury, can win the No. 3 tackle spot just by not being Webb.
Webb simply does not have the confidence of the coaching staff or Jay Cutler at this point.
But the Browns game becomes a test kitchen for more than Webb.
James Brown opened training camp as the No. 1 right guard. That job has gone to Kyle Long. Brown now is competing for a roster spot with Eben Britton, a veteran with time at tackle and guard and a little work this training camp at center.
[REPORT: Bears having discussions about Bennett]
But veteran vs. youth will not factor into decisions on a group that will be as lean as it has been in recent seasons.
Veteran or young guy, it won't make any difference,” Kromer said. “What are the best guys to suit up on game day and also have on the team for the future and in a situation if someone gets hurt?”