NFC North Offensive Line Analysis: Right Tackles
This is probably the position where the teams are closest to each other with strong players on each team.
Let's take a closer look at the right tackles in the NFC North.
Chicago Bears: Gabe Carimi
Last season, Lance Louis took over when Carimi went down in 2011—one of two high draft picks in the division to go down to a season-ending injury (Green Bay's Derek Sherrod being the other one). With Carimi back to full health, the Bears will move him into the right tackle slot to start the season—unless the Chris Williams/Jmarcus Webb experiment at left tackle goes awry.
Since he didn't play last year, he's not on anyone's list of tackles. I was a big fan of Carimi's coming out of college (Wisconsin Badgers, WOOO!), and I wasn't alone. To get a read on what to expect from Carimi's 2012 season season I spoke with Bleacher Report's resident Draft expert Matt Miller—just as unabashed fan of Carimi's as I am.
Here's what he had to say:
Like many Wisconsin tackles, Carimi is very well coached. His technique coming into the NFL was impressive in that he already understood multiple run and pass sets. He's not a player you will have to teach angles to, as this was drilled into him at Wisconsin. There is the question mark of how well he'll recover from injury, but having played left tackle in college and being quick plus strong, Carimi should be very good on the right side in Chicago. I could see him being similar to Bryan Bulaga in the sense that once he gets rolling, he'll quickly become a top player at the position due to his level of technique now, athleticism and upside.
High praise, but Miller told me that it's hard to know exactly how he'll do immediately—initially, Miller has him at around a 20 in the early stages of the next B/R 1,000.
As I said, I like Carimi, and further, Lance Louis wasn't very good at right tackle—so Carimi, by virtue of not being Louis, will be an improvement.
How much of one is hard to say. If Carimi struggles, he doesn't have an All-Pro player on either side of him so nobody can cover for him. However if he plays to expectations, he could be a big help for a line in transition.
Detroit Lions: Gosder Cherilus
When I said I was doing the right tackles on Twitter, the overall reaction was, ummm...well, here is an example.
That may be a bit harsh, but for a guy who has the potential he has, he has not been able to capitalize on it. As Miller points out, four seasons in, he hasn't been able to put his whole game together at once.
Ranking him at 22 in the B/R 1000, Miller says Detroit could easily look to upgrade at right tackle.
The question would be, with who? Johnny Culbreath was released on Wednesday, as former Steeler Jonathan Scott was signed. Scott could fill in, though he wasn't fantastic with Pittsburgh.
The most likely thing would be if Riley Reiff moved to right tackle and Jeff Backus stepped back in at left.
More than likely, they'll try to keep Reiff in his spot if he's at all on point. So fans may have another year of Cherilus, which means keep that Pepto Bismol stocked.
Green Bay Packers: Bryan Bulaga
I have a soft spot for Bulaga, who was the first guy I ever interviewed at the NFL draft. I liked the fit for the packers then just as much as I do now.
I'm not the only one of course, as Miller has him ranked second on his B/R 1,000 list, and the Packers faithful like the way he holds the right side.
Bulaga excels using a combination of technique, speed and strength, and as Miller points out, he has the potential to be a left tackle down the road.
For now, he's an exceptional right tackle and one of the best in the league.
There's no real soft spot in his game, and he'll only get better as he gets more seasoned.
Minnesota Vikings: Philip Loadholt
Loadholt is exceptional in the one area you'd BETTER be exceptional in for the Vikings—run blocking. That's not to say he can't pass block, because he can and then some. Just that his best attribute is the one Adrian Peterson probably enjoys the most. Miller has him at 12 in his 2011 rankings, and I would guess that's mostly on the strength of his run game.
The biggest issue with Loadholt is an inability to handle elite pass-rushers. Less of a problem on the right side than the left, it's still a problem. In a division which has combos like Julius Peppers/Israel Idonije/Shea McClellin or Clay Matthews/Nick Perry or Ndamukong Suh and everyone else—you run into elite pass-rushers anywhere on the line.
He'll be tested, and whether he can continue to hold up in general and improve against the best of the best will have a huge impact on Christian Ponder and company.
Who is the best RT in the NFC North?
The Call: Green Bay Packers' Bryan Bulaga
I'm noticing a trend here, but one nobody should be surprised by. The Packers have slowly put together a great line; that's the simple truth.
Gabe Carimi could have a phenomenal season or Loadholt could close the gap—both have the potential.
But for now, there isn't anyone you should want on the far right aside from Bulaga.
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