Left tackle still remains an issue for the organization even if J'Marcus Webb now stands alone after the departure of the man he competed against for the job during the offseason, training camp and preseason.
But those counting on Webb, who has made 21 consecutive starts, will not feel comfortable until he's at a consistent level for a long stretch of time.
A year after he had 15 penalties marked off against him and two declined, Webb has been called for only three penalties with one declined through five games. According to Pro Football Focus, Webb surrendered two sacks and two hurries in the loss to the Packers. In the three games since, two on the road, he has allowed one sack, five hurries and one hit. Few left tackles in the NFL are going to make it through games cleanly.
"It's a weekly progression," Webb said. "I keep getting stronger. I have to keep the intensity up and if I win my individual battle, that will help us win."
His individual battle this week pits him against Lions right end Kyle Vanden Bosch, the 12-year veteran who has 57 career sacks and is one of the most active defensive linemen in the league.
"Webb is becoming more aware," Tice said. "When they become more aware, it allows them to play faster. He's athletic, though I've heard a lot of people say he's not. I don't know what the hell they are looking at. He's 6 feet 8, 340 pounds and he moves like a guy who's 6-3. He is very athletic for a guy his size. He has excellent change of direction, but he doesn't always play fast.
"I think back to the Seattle game two years ago when he was totally lost and it looked awful. Now, he's showing things in the meeting room. (Again,) when they are aware, they can play fast. That's part of the reason why he's playing better."
A primary focus for Webb this season has been improving his footwork, specifically his second step with his outside left foot. He had a tendency a year ago to step in the bucket and that created a more direct path to quarterback Jay Cutler. That led to hits, hurries, sacks and times when Webb simply had to lunge and grab. It's something offensive line coach Tim Holt consistently is drilling into Webb.
"You get yourself in trouble when you turn at the line of scrimmage and give that defensive end a short corner to get to your guy," Webb said. "It's a conscious effort when you're tired, a conscious effort all the time."
With the Lions using a "wide nine" look on their line, they spread their linemen out further than most defenses. That means Vanden Bosch sometimes will be two or three yards further outside from where a typical end Webb faces would be. It creates more angles as the Lions work to keep everything inside and the scheme tries to force offensive tackles to play more in space against superior athletes rushing the passer.
"That goes back to making sure that second step is vertical and staying square and using your feet," Webb said. "You can't get yourself into trouble early. He plays tough and he's relentless."
The growth process continues for Webb, who's only 24. The Bears would like to see it expedited but plugging in a former seventh-round pick after just one season at right tackle wasn't going to be a seamless transition.
"He's growing every week," center Roberto Garza said. "He's doing a lot of things well. He's practicing good and he has to carry that out onto the field."