Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery today introduced his newest acquisitions: offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett, both of whom were signed as free agents yesterday. Each will be inserted instantly as a starter, with Bushrod taking over on the left edge.
That means J’Marcus Webb, who was the starter at left tackle the last two seasons, will be making a move. Emery said today that Webb will slide to right tackle and will compete with Gabe Carimi for the starting gig.
Webb started 12 games at right tackle as a rookie in 2010 and struggled mightily, particularly in pass protection. Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded Webb -25.0 in pass blocking that season, which was second worst in the league amongst offensive tackles. He was switched to left tackle the next year and has steadily progressed in protection. In 2012, he raised his pass-block grade to 1.4, which is massive improvement at a considerably harder position to play.
Webb will compete with Carimi, who was borderline horrible on the right edge protecting Jay Cutler last year. Carimi started 13 games at right tackle, grading -20.3 in protection, per PFF, which was third worst in the NFL at his position. He was benched by Week 13 in favor of journeyman Jon Scott.
For those reasons, it’s safe to assume that Webb will win that competition. The one wildcard is Carimi’s right knee, which he dislocated as a rookie and never seemed to recover from last season. If that knee returns to full health, Carimi may have a shot to again start at right tackle.
Yet even if Webb does win out, Emery said Carimi will still get an opportunity to play right guard, where he started three games last year due to injury. Inside, Carimi’s lack of lateral movement didn’t hamper him as much. He graded 4.2 at RG according to PFF, which was the highest of any Bears guard in 2012.
Despite his struggles in pass protection, Carimi was outstanding as a run blocker, which would give him a lot of value at guard. As of now, the only guards on the roster are Edwin Williams and James Brown, although the team is expected to re-sign Lance Louis. Yet Louis is recovering from a torn ACL and may not be recovered in time to start the season.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.