Former offensive tackle Gabe Carimi is likely to play guard in 2013.
To this point, Carimi has not lived up to expectations.
The Bears have had little success with first-round tackles since the turn of the century; Carimi is the third such player they have drafted. Marc Colombo (29th overall, 2002) and Chris Williams (14th overall, 2008) both had injuries that kept them from becoming solid offensive linemen for the Bears.
Carimi has also been injured since entering the NFL. He sustained a serious knee injury in the second week of his rookie season, and he was placed on injured reserve later in the year (according to ESPN).
When Carimi was on the field in 2012, he didn’t play particularly well. He was flagged for penalties often. Carimi was also a liability in pass protection, as Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave him a negative rating in that category for nine out of his 10 starts.
Between Carimi’s injuries and subpar performances, it seems his time at tackle is done for now. New addition Jermon Bushrod will protect Jay Cutler’s blind side, which enables J’Marcus Webb to slide over to right tackle. Jonathan Scott was re-signed by the Bears (according to NFL.com), presumably to be the swing tackle.
That means Carimi will move inside to guard for the 2013-14 season. He manned the right guard position for Chicago a little bit last season.
Carimi is a good bet to beat out Edwin Williams if it’s a competition, and there are many reasons to believe he will be a successful guard all season long.
Gabe Carimi was sidelined for most of 2011.
Though Carimi’s knee injury derailed his first year in the NFL, there’s no reason to label him as injury-prone yet. According to his Badger profile, Carimi missed three games in his entire Wisconsin career.
The “Bear Jew” also made it through the 2012 season without missing any games.
In short, don’t expect Carimi to be a first-round flop because he’s not on the field. The 2011 injury was a fluke, and he should be healthy moving forward.
Carimi takes off with the ball against the Packers.
Straight-line speed is far less important than lateral speed for a tackle, but Carimi’s performance in the 40 is indicative of the type of player he is. Carimi is a mauler, which is why he has been better in run-blocking than pass-blocking during his career.
With the move to guard, Carimi will need much less speed. His style of play is well-suited to the center of the line. Guards need speed on pulls, but they don’t need to match up with fast edge-rushers on pass plays.
Carimi’s speed led to suspect play at tackle, but it should be perfect for a guard.
Carimi playing guard against the Vikings.
Carimi is 6’7”, which is tall for an interior lineman. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc argued that such a large frame will make it harder to get leverage, allowing defensive tackles to “walk him deep into the pocket" (h/t Kevin Seifert, ESPNChicago.com).
On the other hand, Carimi’s frame carries 316 pounds. With his size comes plenty of strength. His reputation as a mauler in college will aid him on the inside. As long as offensive line coach Aaron Kromer works on his technique, there’s no reason that he can’t hang with bulky pass-rushers.
While Carimi’s height does not fit the prototypical build for an offensive guard, his strength more than makes up for that.
Carimi in pass protection.
Carimi’s awful performances at right tackle in 2012 were due to his inability to block pass-rushers.
His games at right guard last year were a different story.
As soon as Carimi transitioned to the interior, he was rated much higher on Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He was rated as plus-1.3 in pass protection against the Seattle Seahawks and plus-1.5 in pass protection against the Minnesota Vikings.
Carimi should continue to build on that success. He went from being a liability in the passing game to an asset.
Speedy pass-rushers beat Carimi off of the edge when he was a tackle. As a guard, he matches up better with defenders and will keep Cutler upright.
Gabe Carimi will try to help Forte record another 1,000-yard season.
Gabe Carimi’s biggest strength as a right tackle was run-blocking, and there’s no reason to expect his production in that aspect of the game to decline.
Carimi had his second-highest rating as a run blocker in his first start at right guard (Pro Football Focus subscription required). The Bears also rushed for over 115 yards as a team in Carimi’s first three games at right guard.
As Carimi gains familiarity with the position, he will only get better and more consistent as a run blocker. It was already his best ability on the offensive line.
The transition from tackle to guard is not as seamless as one might expect, but Carimi has all of the skills needed to be successful long term. If Carimi carves out a niche at right guard, the Bears’ revamped offensive line could be the best it’s been in years.
*All stats provided by ESPN.com.