In the Wake of the News
5:37 PM CDT, August 10, 2013
If Bears right tackle J'Marcus Webb plans to post a photo on Facebook to mark an occasion as the social-media maven often does, here is a suggestion for Sunday morning: An alarm clock.
After Webb's performance Friday night in the exhibition opener against the Panthers, it is ringing. Loudly.
Wake up, J-Webb. Sleep through another start, meaningless game or not, and nothing should guarantee one more. To underscore the need for the fourth-year player to finally take a professional approach to reaching his immense potential, the time has come for the Bears to impose sanctions on J-Webb Nation.
Coach Marc Trestman should welcome Webb back to Bourbonnais with a demotion to the second team. Veteran Eben Britton represents a safe alternative as the No. 1 right tackle, offering less doubt and drama. Trestman making such a move with still four weeks until the season opener would help the first-year head coach send a message about accountability and perhaps coax the consistency Webb has lacked over 44 career NFL starts. A roster lock, Webb shouldn't be.
"He's in a competition," Trestman promised after Friday's 24-17 loss to the Panthers. "I haven't hidden from the fact he's had some good days and some not-so-good days. He hasn't been as consistent as we'd like. When he's on his game he can be very good."
But when Webb is off his game, he can be very bad and the player most likely to impede progress of a promising new offense. What Trestman said candidly about Webb's ups and downs came as close to a criticism as the thoughtful coach has come. But so far the competition Trestman described has been more imagined than actual, which is why making it real first thing Sunday makes sense.
Either Webb responds like a guy fighting for his NFL life or retreats mentally like someone with a history of handling maturity as poorly as pass rushers. Test his mettle. Webb is likable and personable, but vulnerable too. The Bears must find out sooner rather than later if the 6-foot-7, 333-pounder with all the measurables possesses qualities impossible to quantify. The former seventh-round draft pick still can put a happy ending on a rags-to-riches story or become a cautionary tale. It is up to him.
It took eight offensive plays to wonder how seriously Webb takes his job.
Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, a 6-2, 285-pound speed rusher, beat Webb twice on the same play to sack Jay Cutler. Even more than Cutler's interception on the first play that predictably preoccupied Chicago, Webb's whiff of Johnson was the Bears' most discouraging play.
The 6-yard loss sucked momentum out of a drive that started with two straight completions. More alarmingly, it made Webb's first impression in 2013 that nothing had changed about the offense's most inconsistent starter from 2012. That the shaky left tackle who gave up nine sacks last year simply had shifted the Bears' biggest liability to the right side. It was almost enough to make you question whether Gabe Carimi was the right tackle to unload.
To consider concern over Webb's problems early in camp an overreaction is a risk the Bears can't afford to take. If calling for Webb to be benched after one bad performance suggests inordinate scrutiny on one of 11 guys in the huddle, keep in mind he invites it by publicly raising issues about his readiness. Offensive lines mesh best when five guys work in concert, on and off the field. Webb clearly likes the solo.
Days after training camp started, the Bears' most self-promoting player hardly sounded 100 percent focused by tweeting: "Hard work and no play makes me a dull boy. Lots of beautiful women here at training camp."
Pro athletes ensconced in rural Illinois for three weeks in the summer indeed need diversions. But a player as unproven as Webb — months removed from being arrested downstate on a drug-possession charge later dropped — would be wise to avoid giving people reason to wonder about his heart as well as his head. Yet four days later, Webb took to Twitter again to state his commitment to improving ... his love life.
"I have a curfew and chicks to see," he wrote. "Its (sic) driving me wild!!!! I cut it too close last night."
Too close? A week ago, Webb opened eyes by shutting down to presumably worry more about the man he was blocking than his 14,392 Twitter followers or 3,500 Facebook friends.
"I'm going dark. I won't be on for awhile," Webb posted. "I need to prioritize, change up some things and make better choices. Peace."
That moratorium lasted four days until Webb broke his social-media silence Thursday to wish himself a happy birthday.
Webb turned 25. It's time to grow up.
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