Bears coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo wouldn’t commit to a position for Gabe Carimi, the 29th overall selection in the NFL Draft.
But this is my expectation: Carimi will play right tackle, and J’Marcus Webb will get to play left tackle, which he played at West Texas A&M.
One of the pre-Combine knocks on Carimi is that he may not be athletic enough to play left tackle in the NFL. But at the Combine, Carimi did a very solid 29 reps on the bench press, a 31 1/2 inch vertical leap, and his best 40-time was a 5.18. Only six offensive tackles had a faster time than him, including Nate Solder, who ran a Combine-best 4.96.
Still, this is clear: Carimi isn’t the athlete that Webb is.
Webb will embrace the opportunity to swing back to what he considers his natural position, and Carimi will embrace the opportunity to start at right tackle.
So what happens to the rest of the linemen?
Well, there will be a lot of competition to play guard.
The Bears still need to re-sign Olin Kreutz, who is an unrestricted free agent. With Webb entering his second season and Carimi entering his first, that signing is even more mandatory than before. Kreutz’s leadership is a must for the unit, especially with the possibility that only he will be starting at the same spot as he did in 2010.
Chris Williams, the 14th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, is currently at left guard. But Frank Omiyale, who had a lot of ups and downs at left tackle, has numerous starts at that position. Roberto Garza has long manned the post at right guard.
But, the Bears are expected to open up the competition at guard to players like Lance Louis, Johan Asiata and Edwin Williams.
May the best men win.
But more than anything, there is one thing that should be welcomed by the Bears: Carimi will bring a hard-nosed approach to the unit. The Bears have several “athletes” but they don’t have enough attitude. Carimi is in the Kreutz mold, someone who will try to drill his opponent into the ground.
So Carimi thinks he’s “NFL ready.” Smith wouldn’t pin a timetable on where and when he’ll play, but the Bears certainly would be disappointed if he’s not starting from Day One.