BOURBONNAIS -- For the first time since training camp started almost three weeks ago, rookie Jordan Mills, a fifth-round pick, lined up at right tackle with the first-team offensive line ahead of J'Marcus Webb.
The spin from coach Marc Trestman was that the move was just the latest in a master plan to maneuver offensive linemen around to find the best five before the start of the regular season.
But it seemed a strange coincidence coming on the heels of Friday night's preseason opener in which Webb was beaten for a first-quarter sack.
The fourth-year veteran started all 32 games the past two seasons at left tackle, but his inconsistencies in pass protection necessitated a move to the right side.
Jonathan Scott, who started six games last season at right tackle, probably would already have gotten significant snaps there with the first team, but he has been sidelined for almost two weeks with a knee injury that remains day to day.
So Sunday Mills, who started 29 games at right tackle for Louisiana Tech, got his first reps with the starters.
Trestman said it would be "unfair" to consider Sunday's lineup shuffle as a message to Webb.
"I think we've been very clear with J'Marcus about what we're doing," the coach said. "There's been an up-and-down performance level by J'Marcus, but we were still going to do this.
"We were still going to give work to the other guys and see what they could do as well. So we'll evaluate it. We're going to go through the week like this."
Trestman is not yet ready to commit to starting Mills in the second preseason game, Thursday night at Soldier Field against the San Diego Chargers, but Mills will have every opportunity this week in practice to prove he can handle a promotion.
Webb, who worked Sunday at left tackle with the second team, spun the shift positively as well.
"They definitely want to give me looks at both sides," he said. "You've got to be versatile in this offense. One of the things I get to work on this week is being versatile, and playing next to different guys."
But the 6-foot-7, 333-pounder admits he needs to improve his performance.
"I've got to work on using my feet and my hands, and work on getting better every day," he said, adding that the coaching staff had not expressed any displeasure with his play.
Asked if he was disappointed, Webb said: "No, not at all."
For the 6-5, 316-pound Mills, it was an opportunity he didn't expect.
"(Coaches) wanted to see how good I was doing," he said. "It was unexpected, but you have to be ready in the NFL. If somebody goes down, or if they want to make a switch out, you have to be prepared and ready, and I was prepared and ready."
How ready Mills is will be determined after a few more days of work with the first-team defense.
"We think he's performed well on a daily basis, and we want to see what he can do playing against the ones throughout the week without moving him around," Trestman said.
"He'll get some work in other places and be with the twos at times when others are with the ones, but we're going to give him much of the work against our No. 1 ends."
It's a big step up in class, as Mills quickly realized.
"This is my first time going against (Julius) Peppers," the rookie said. "He's great. You line up against somebody who's the same height as me but way faster and way stronger, and (you) just go at it with him. It was great."
Immediately to the left of Mills on Sunday was another rookie, first-round pick Kyle Long, at right guard, replacing James Brown, who started Friday at Carolina. But Long has taken multiple reps with the ones earlier in camp, and he's expected to win the starting job.
"Since we've been working together a lot with the twos and threes, it was a good transition," Long said of working alongside Mills. "I think they're just trying to throw us in there and see what we can do.
"It was a lot of fun (Sunday) to go against the ones, see some different faces, just another day to try and get better."
Trestman cautioned against reading too much into Sunday's developments, but it could be a sign of things to come.
"I wouldn't draw any conclusions about what's happened," he said. "It really is part of our plan to find the best five over the course of training camp and in week two (into) the second game, this is the way that we're starting.
"We're not doing anything but working the plan at this point in time."
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