By Vaughn McClure, Tribune reporter
8:35 PM CDT, August 26, 2012
Mike Tice could have used Sunday's post-practice media session as a forum to announce his starting left tackle. He didn't.
Instead, the Bears offensive coordinator updated the state of the line, as a whole, coming off Friday's crucial third exhibition game against the Giants.
"We were pleased with the progress we're making in our protection,'' Tice said. "We definitely made a lot of strides since the last two times we were in New York and I think we've made a lot of strides this preseason in our protection.
"Where we need to continue to hone it up and get our timing down and figure out what we're going to be — and we will — is in the run game."
In terms of how the line will come together for the Sept. 9 season opener against the Colts, it appears J'Marcus Webb has solidified his spot as the starting left tackle, even if Tice declined to make it official. Webb would join left guard Chris Spencer, center Roberto Garza, right guard Lance Louis and right tackle Gabe Carimi in the starting lineup. Former first-round pick Chris Williams appears to be on the outside looking in.
Williams, who finished last season at left guard, expressed a willingness to return to guard, if it helps him gain playing time.
"This entire camp, my focus has been about wanting to be on the field somewhere,'' Williams said. "Whether it be at tackle or guard, that doesn't bother me at all. I just want to be in the starting five. And I'm just doing whatever I can.''
Before Williams suffered a season-ending wrist injury last season, he played a key role in the running game as a pulling guard, clearing the path for Matt Forte. Since some of the pass-protection issues have been addressed this preseason — evident with Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell not being sacked against the Giants — the Bears now have to work on consistently clearing holes for Forte.
Entering Sunday, the Bears ranked 30th in rushing offense through three exhibition games with an average of 70.7 yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry. Forte did not play in the exhibition opener, but he managed just 39 yards on 10 carries against the Giants and was dropped for a loss on two of his first three carries.
Most figured the addition of receiver Brandon Marshall would help open more run lanes for Forte. If that's the case, the Bears have to take advantage.
"I'm not really worried about it. We'll run the ball fine,'' Tice said. "We just have to pay more attention to it in our individual work. We've focused so much on making sure that we're able to protect our quarterbacks that we've taken some of that time" away from run blocking.
"We actually had some mental errors in the run game that were easy things," he said. "So we just have to make sure that we clean that up and make sure we're all on the same page. We'll be OK there."
The Bears finished ninth in rushing offense last season (125.9 yards per game) behind Forte. The addition of Michael Bush has the potential to make the run game that much more potent.
Now, it's up to Tice to get everything lined up perfectly.
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