Covert offers suggestions to improve Bears' pass blocking

Former lineman thinks Cutler could have quicker release sometimes and left tackle could use help from tight ends and running backs

Jay Cutler caused a stir last month when he publicly questioned the development of the Bears' offensive line.

Jim Covert, considered the best left tackle in Bears history, has a different slant on the situation — especially with regard to oft-criticized J'Marcus Webb.

Covert believes Cutler sometimes holds the ball too long and he has other suggestions for the Bears to assist their linemen.

"(Webb) did pretty well (at left tackle)," Covert said. "It's a very difficult position to play. I've seen guys who played left tackle in college that the pros move to guard (Chris Williams, who's now moving back to left tackle).

"Or a guy gets drafted as a left tackle (Gabe Carimi) and they move him to right tackle. (The Bears) have a couple of those, right? A lot of that stuff happens. ..."

"(Webb) did an admirable job with a pretty good quarterback who maybe held on to it a little bit last year," Covert said. "But (Cutler) is a great player and if he gets rid of the ball. … he probably has one of the best arms in the league."

Covert, left tackle on the Super Bowl XX champs, was named to the NFL All-Decade Team in 1990. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Covert's NFL career was cut short in 1991 after back surgery.

He says offensive coordinator Mike Tice should be able to help Webb and the rest of the linemen with more creative schemes. Webb caught the brunt of the blame for sacks last season.

"You can run double tight (ends) every once in a while. … Or you can keep a (back in to block)," Covert said. "I mean, the Redskins did it for years with (coach) Joe Gibbs and they used two tight ends. That's why they didn't give up a lot of sacks.

"Everyone was saying: 'Well, that's a great offensive line.' Well, they were pretty good, but they (mostly) kept their tight ends and a back in there. A lot of times their job was to chuck the defensive end coming off the ball.

"(Fans) are thinking the left tackle is protecting people by himself all of the time, but really he isn't. You have to keep people honest. You can't have guys teeing off on you, especially on third-and-long."

Overall, Covert said he's disappointed when he watches most current NFL linemen.

"The technique nowadays is dreadful," said Covert, now president and CEO of The Institute for Transfusion Medicine. "You very rarely see guys punch(-block) people with their hands, get separation.

"In these days of the three-step drop … the short passing game … you can essentially shock the guy at the line of scrimmage and almost fall down and (the defender) won't get to the passer. Yet these (offensive linemen) continually back up and catch people and it is just frustrating to watch.

"You can't catch people, you have to shock people at the line of scrimmage. You have to stop them. Pass blocking is controlled aggression."

Covert singled out current offensive line coaches Pat Flaherty (Giants), Russ Grimm (Cardinals) and Paul Dunn (Falcons) as "good teachers who know the game well. But as a whole, (line play) is not very good."

"I was quite fortunate, I played left tackle in high school (and) in college (at Pittsburgh) for three years in a pro-oriented offense," Covert said. "We threw the ball about 40 times a game … with Dan Marino. I learned how to pass-block early (and) had a great teacher. Joe Moore, I think, was the best offensive line coach who ever lived."

fmitchell@tribune.com

Twitter @kicker34
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