Potential alone no longer enough for J'Marcus Webb

Potential alone no longer enough for J'Marcus Webb
Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Since being considered a Top 100 prospect nationally by Rivals.com and signing with the Texas Longhorns in 2006, people have always seen the potential in J'Marcus Webb. The size was something that couldn't be taught, and despite his struggles in Austin, we tabbed Webb as a four-star again coming out of Navarro JC.

He'd go on to sign another National Letter of Intent, this time with the Arizona Wildcats before ultimately winding up at Division II West Texas A&M of the Lonestar Conference. There, despite playing at a small school, Webb's size once again afforded him an opportunity, and he was ultimately taken by the Chicago Bears in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Former offensive line coach and eventual offensive coordinator Mike Tice took him in as a personal reclamation project, and despite concerns around his footwork, J'Marcus Webb cracked the starting rotation as a rookie. Over the course of the last three years, he's remained in the lineup, despite being the subject of nearly universal ridicule from the media and fans in Chicago.

Now, it looks as if we're finally starting to look at Webb for the player he is as opposed to the player so many have convinced themselves he will eventually be. After moving back to right tackle, a position that seemed a more natural fit for the 6-8, 333-pounder, Webb has found himself in first-year head coach Marc Trestman's dog house.

It's been a rough start to camp for J'Marcus Webb. He was absolutely obliterated on the first day of full pads by Corey Wootton, who has made a habit out of making Webb look silly at camp over the last two years, and then in the Bears’ first preseason game, Webb's performance was poor enough that he was moved back to left tackle (where he sits firmly behind Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod on the depth chart) and rookie Jordan Mills was given first-team reps at right tackle the following practice.

Now, Chicago's most recent jumbling of the offensive line doesn't necessarily spell the end for J'Marcus Webb. There's still a lot of value in a 25-year old lineman with considerable starting experience at both tackle positions; however, it does signify a clear message being sent by Trestman. And that's the fact that potential can only get you so far. Eventually, you have to prove that you can produce on a consistent basis.

For an offensive lineman, as pointed out by Eli Kaberon of ChicagoSideSports.com, that means staying OUT of the limelight. The Bears have invested heavily this offseason in overhauling their offensive line in an effort to provide Jay Cutler with some time in the pocket, and it's clear to me that if J'Marcus Webb doesn't prove himself as a capable option at right tackle, they're not going to continue to put him out there in hope that one day it will all magically click.

In fairness to J'Marcus, he improved from Year One to Year Three. Unfortunately, even with those improvements, on his best days he graded out as an average to below-average offensive lineman, and that's just not going to cut it anymore.

Finally, it appears as if this coaching staff is going to evaluate J'Marcus Webb on the way he performs and not on potential. Because, at this point, that potential seems somewhat lost.

After cutting Gabe Carimi, it seemed as if Webb would be the de facto starter at right tackle, but now we know that's not necessarily the case. For Webb, potential doesn't seem like it's enough anymore.

Perhaps that realization will cause a change in Webb. Maybe he'll come back on Thursday with a chip on his shoulder, and reclaim what he thinks is rightfully his. Maybe he'll find himself comfortable embracing a backup's role and develop into a serviceable swing tackle. Maybe he'll head off into the sunset, never to be heard from by JWebb Nation again.

Whatever happens, now's the time for the Chicago Bears to figure out exactly what they have in J'Marcus Webb, because by Sept. 8 when they open the season against the Bengals, it may already be too late.

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