Over the last two years no player on the Chicago Bears roster has come under more fire than left tackle J'Marcus Webb. Webb has been a constant target of criticism as both a starting right tackle and a left tackle in his first two years in the NFL. Heading into Webb's third year there was a basic assumption, for the Bears' offense to improve Webb's play would have to improve.
Perhaps no player has faced the same level of criticism and irate reaction from Bears fans and media talking heads alike than Webb.
Gabe Carimi is performing at a level just as bad as Webb was in his first few games as a starter, and yet Carimi isn't as berated. In fact Carimi's stature as a first round draft pick seems to lower to the overall expectations and criticism he's faced from the fans. Most fans casually pass off Carimi's struggles as he's a young player that was injured last year and is not quite healthy this year. Where as Webb was afforded no such patience from the Bears faithful.
Quietly under the radar and unbeknownst to most of his critics J'Marcus Webb has improved from last year to this year, if not dramatically so. Webb had a solid performance against the Houston Texans one of the best pass rushing units in the NFL. And while the Texans didn't bring an assortment of blitzes, Webb did well to win his one on one match up in this game.
The Texans game wasn't Webb's only standout performance against a top pass rusher this year. Webb was also strong in his game against Cowboys pass rush extraordinaire DeMarcus Ware, a game that Ware did not notch a sack when Webb squared off with him.
Webb's most recent game that gave the impression that Webb is the same player of the last two seasons was the Titans game. Against Kameiron Wimbley Webb looked over matched, but what most fans don't realize is that Wimbley had his worst game of the season. Wimbley has been dominant in getting pass rush pressure and disruptions from his right defensive end spot, but versus Webb he had his least productive game of the season.
Further highlighting Webb's improvement this season, he is the only offensive lineman on the roster to grade out with an overall positive rating. What this statistic essentially highlights, is Webb is the best performing on the roster based on ProFootballFocus' scouting and rating system.
While most fans are already looking ahead to what offensive tackles will be available in the first round, don't be surprised if the Bears keep Webb in place as the starter for the long term. His vast improvement as a second year starter means that he's likely instilled more confidence in Mike Tice than fans in the Windy City. It also means that fans should take notice that Webb is not the weak link on this offensive line any longer.
Webb will still be challenged down the stretch by some of the best pass rushers in the NFL. The key for him will be maintaining this ever improving level of play and proving that he can be what Mike Tice and the rest of the coaching staff believe he is capable of being, and what he has been so far this season.
No J'Marcus Webb may not be one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL like most fans would like to have, but he is a competent starter. Plus the Bears would be best to allow Webb to continue to develop, rather than rewind the clock back to a rookie who doesn't offer the same three years worth of lessons and experience gained that Webb has as a starter.