Jonathan Scott has the pedigree, but does he have the skills to become a starter on the offensive line for the Chicago Bears? We may soon find out.
Starting right tackle Gabe Carimi has been horrible in pass protection all season. He's been so bad that the second-year player could soon lose his job.
"I think Gabe is so intense and something happens early – and he's a young player, he's only played in 11 games and change. He gets all worked up and he doesn't settle down and it compounds," coordinator Mike Tice said today. "It's happened more than once. It compounds and it keeps building. So he's a young player that has to work through it. He really does."
Carimi missed almost all of his rookie season due to a dislocated knee. He needed three surgeries on the injury and hasn't been the same player since. His poor play has prompted many to question whether Scott should get a shot at the right tackle position.
"Jonathan has played good football in his career," said Tice. "He's been mostly a career backup. He has started. He started against Denver last year in the playoffs [with Pittsburgh]. And we've been playing him a little bit, at tight end, trying to get him in there and get his legs underneath him and see what he can do. And he's done a solid job for us."
Is Scott up to the task if Tice makes the call?
"Am I ready? I was born ready," Scott said today.
Scott's chances to crack the starting lineup improved considerably after the Bears' 32-7 debacle in San Francisco on Monday night. Both Carimi and J'Marcus Webb were swinging doors for the 49ers' defense, as Jason Campbell was sacked six times and Chicago's offense struggled for an anemic 143 total yards.
But does Scott mind ascending the depth chart through another player's misfortune?
"I don't see it that way at all," Scott said. "All guys have bad days, games they'd rather forget. Our stats were not the best this past week so changes are being made. If that means I am slated to start, then I view that as an achievement I've reached rather than as a failing of another player."
Webb has been under a microscope for most of the regular season. He was the target of Jay Cutler's sideline ire during Chicago's loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 13, and has failed to progress significantly in any positive direction since then.
Yet Carimi, last year's first round selection, is a much bigger disappointment. With a 7-3 record and six games in the regular season to go, the Bears have little tolerance for experiments, a fact Scott readily acknowledges.
"The pressure is on us for sure," Scott said. "In a sense, every game from now on is a playoff game. We need to put the two losses behind us. We're facing the difficult part of our schedule and our focus has to be completely on that. The Vikings are hungry. Seattle has a strong defense and positive momentum. Green Bay is on the schedule in not too long. We all remember what happened last time we faced them. Nobody wants a repeat of that situation."
Scott cited his seven years in the NFL as reason enough to give him a chance.
"I'm not new to this," Scott said. "I won't get rattled if I should get the call. When I haven't been out there playing, I've been on the sidelines observing. I understand the game. I have the desire to win. I feel my skill set is where it should be to make a positive contribution to the team right now."
Tice said the team can compensate for a temporary letdown by one or two offensive linemen, but not for a failure by three or four, as happened against San Francisco. A shakeup of the O-line is the obvious place to start a turnaround.
"At the end of the day, you've got to block," Tice said. "If you're assigned a guy to block, you've got to block him. Bottom line, that's what it is. Let's call it what it is. We all saw the same game.
"We need better results. This is a business and we need to approach things as such. A decision will be made and we'll go in this short week."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.