- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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PROTECTED BY LG AMINI SILATOLU
Carolina ranked first in rushing touchdowns, including 14 by Newton, and there's no reason to expect a drop-off just because a rookie from Division II Midwestern State is replacing an eight-year pro, Travelle Wharton, at left guard. Taken in the second round of the 2012 draft, the 6'4", 315-pound Silatolu will be flanked by two-time Pro Bowler Jordan Gross at left tackle and three-time Pro Bowler Ryan Kalil at center. Both veterans will give Silotolu directions coming out of the huddle and make sure he responds to the proper checks at the line.
Then again, Silatolu may be able to answer any questions his more experienced teammates have. "Cam did a couple of things last year that young guys usually don't get right away—understanding protections—and we feel the same way about Amini this year," coach Ron Rivera says. "We like his size and physical play. He's very aggressive. He came from a small college, but he dominated everybody he played against. When he first got here, he struggled with the quickness of the game. But he's arrived."
BEARS QB JAY CUTLER
PROTECTED BY LT J'MARCUS WEBB
Cutler, who has been sacked more times than any other quarterback (75) over the past two seasons, might want to consider hiring a bodyguard to join him on the field in 2012. The 6'8", 335-pound Webb, a 2010 seventh-round pick out of West Texas A&M, played primarily on the right side as a rookie but started all 16 games at left tackle for Chicago last year. He did not distinguish himself: Webb was responsible for 14 of the Bears' 49 sacks allowed and was also called for more penalties (14) than any other offensive lineman in the league. Yet once again he has the job of protecting Cutler's blind side.
Does he even take that responsibility seriously? In mid-August offensive coordinator Mike Tice questioned Webb's progress, and Webb responded by posting a poem on his Facebook page: "Every morning I wake up, and get out of bed, while thoughts of preparing to battle dance in my head. No visions of cupcakes and tacos. Just football and being the best Left Tackle! ... I'm giving my best everyday and there simply isn't anything left to say—BEAR DOWN!!!!" That will certainly reassure Chicago.