Chicago Bears Pass Protection Issues Are A Team Effort

The Chicago Bears’ pass protection has been a concern for a couple years now. So much so that I even dedicated a season long series on the subject at Windy City Gridiron; Sackwatch! In 2010, the Bears gave up more sacks than any other team. So far in 2011, their sacks allowed stat is way too high as well. The Bears have given up the 5th most sacks and the 7th most QB hits so far through 15 games.

Chicago was well under their 2010 sack pace with Jay Cutler directing the offense, but the last four weeks that number is trending upward with Caleb Hanie under center. It’s easy to look at the Bears pass protection woes and rant and rave about the poor o-line play, but it goes much deeper than that. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

The Mike Martz offense places a premium on having good edge protectors. He had them in St. Louis, and they still gave up plenty of sacks, but he hasn’t had them in Chicago. Martz did show the ability to adjust his offense last year, and the Bears thrived with a more balanced approach. He made similar adjustments in ‘11 with his offense, by leaving more blockers in order to protect the QB, and the Bears went on a high scoring 5 wins in a row pace. Then, the injury to Cutler must have shook Martz a bit, because he went back to some 7 step drops for Hanie. He threw in some empty sets for his inexperienced QB. Now, as a collective fan base we wanted to know: WTF.

It sure as Hell seemed like Martz was sabotaging his QB. Why it took him a few games to scale back on some of his Martzfense and to get Hanie out of the pocket is beyond me. Why he thought his revamped offensive line didn’t need max protects and plenty of chip help, is a question most Bears fans would like answered. Why he thought a guy with a less actual game time, a lower grasp of the O, a slower release, and a limited pocket presence could maintain the status quo has me wondering if Mad Mike finally went, well…mad.

During the 10 games that Cutler started the Bears gave up 23 sacks, for an easy to figure out 2.3 per game. The last 4 weeks with Hanie quarterbacking, the Bears gave up 19 sacks, for a not able to calculate in my head 4.75 per game. Even with my questionable math skills I can see the pace has more than doubled. Hanie ran himself into a few sacks, he held onto the ball for a few more, and his offensive coordinator put him in bad situations for even more sacks.

That’s a lot of blame I’m putting on Martz and Hanie, but I’d be fooling myself to think the Bears o-line has been playing good this year. It may even be a stretch to call their play average. Starting left tackle J’Marcus Webb is too inconsistent. He’ll show good technique for a number of plays they just poop the bed. Sloppy technique or lazy play? He’s still a young player, but time is ticking on that excuse.

Over on the other side, right tackle Lance Louis just isn’t a tackle. It doesn’t garner him a pass on his problems of late, but he is playing out of position. Technique issues and mental mistakes have hurt him the last few weeks after looking solid earlier this year. A move back to guard will be exactly what he needs, and hopefully a healthy Gabe Carimi and an off-season tackle pick-up will keep him inside for good.