CHICAGO (MCT) — While one seventh-round draft pick on the offensive line leads the Bears to question their commitment to him, another could quietly be on his way to becoming a solid part of their future.
Right guard Lance Louis has avoided scrutiny after two games as he settles back into the position that best suits him. Louis will make his 20th career start Sunday against the Rams at Soldier Field, and he looks like he could be elevating his game early in a contract season.
The same cannot be said for J’Marcus Webb, who could be one poor outing away from losing his left tackle job. But Louis looks comfortable at right guard, where the expectation was he would make significant progress last season before he was shifted to right tackle for 11 starts with Gabe Carimi sidelined by a knee injury. Louis, 27, was adequate at right tackle but not a long-term solution.
“I’m a guard,” said the 6-3, 320-pounder. “I am definitely more comfortable. It’s where I belong. That is what I have the body type for.”
It’s premature to make a judgment on Louis, who has not allowed a sack. But he might just be a young lineman who pans out for the Bears, and that’s why the team will have to pay close attention to him. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Bears don’t want to be financially tied to a player they’re not sold on, but the way things have gone on the line, they can’t afford to develop a young building block only to watch him depart for another club. Louis is going about his business as if those decisions are a long way off.
“I just have to show what I can do,” he said. “It’s my contract year. I have to show the growth and steps I’ve made in the right direction. I still have a lot of things to work on. I am just feeling confident with my play and feeling better about it each week. Hopefully we just keep getting better as a unit each week. That is the big thing — us getting better together.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Tice gave Louis his first chance to start two years ago because he liked his size, athleticism and toughness. Louis is a hard-nosed player, and it’s evident if you watch him on tape. He suffered a knee injury in 2010 and never returned to the starting lineup. But he solved a problem last season when Frank Omiyale proved incapable of filling Carimi’s shoes, and now things are beginning to click.
“He’s done a great job of learning from what he did last year,” center Roberto Garza said. “He’s played well these first two weeks. He’s a big kid. Strong, powerful, quick. He hits and gets after people. It’s fun to see.”
The hope was this would all happen a year ago.
“My expectation before he (had) to play right tackle for us last year was to take that next step forward,” Tice said. “Unfortunately, it was almost like a missed year for him. The good thing is he did play and he did get playing experience. I do expect him to continue to improve.”
Like a lot of young linemen, Louis used to let one mistake turn into a bad series. Tice said he’s no longer bunching poor plays together.
“In old-fashioned, Chuck Knox terminology, offensive line play is guy on guy,” Tice said. “At the end of the day, Lance is on his guy a lot.”