Now please repeat after me, 'Gabe Carimi is not a bust.'
Not yet anyway.
Gabe Carimi was drafted by former Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo to play tackle. He was a left tackle at Wisconsin, winning the Outland trophy as the nations best offensive linemen, and as a rookie he played right tackle before falling to injury.
Last season he started out at right tackle before being benched for Jonathan Scott, then was forced into action at right guard, then ended up back at right tackle when Scott was dinged up.
After the Bears acquired Jermon Bushrod in free agency to play left tackle, former LT J'Marcus Webb was shifted to the right side. Scott was re-signed to compete for the RT spot, and Carimi was kind of in limbo. Was he a guard, was a tackle, was he a bust? Repeat after me, 'Gabe Carimi is not a bust.'
The Gabe Carimi I saw in limited snaps as a rookie didn't look like the guy I saw in 2012, or at Wisconsin. I really don't think he had his body right after his knee issues in year one. Last year he not only looked a step slow at right tackle, but he was pushed around too much for a guy of his size and strength. But at right guard, he looked OK.
At a legit 6'7", he's tall for the interior of the line, and one of the knocks on him in college was a tendency to play too high. That's a common weakness for tall offensive linemen. Last year he got into trouble when he stood up playing RT, and if you remember the San Francisco game, you'll know what I'm talking about. Guard technique dictates that he stays low, because he's always about a foot from a d-lineman, and in pass protection his kick step isn't as pronounced. He's not looking to protect the edge against a pass rush, so he can pass block in a more controlled manner.
Playing inside will force him to stay low otherwise he risks getting bull-rushed back into the quarterbacks lap.
Last year Pro Football Focus graded him out at a -14.3 while playing right tackle, and at +4.2 as a right guard. This might have something to do with head coach Marc Trestman's evaluation of Carimi's play. Based off last years film, it's hard to argue with the decision to keep Gabe at guard.
Carimi has said he plans to compete at LG, RG, and RT, but Trestman made it clear, "We're going to focus on him competing at the guard position.", and that's probably the best thing moving forward. Give the kid a position, and stick with it.
Don't let his position switch get you down. Many players are drafted at one position, only to move to another. Henry Melton is no longer a defensive end, Devin Hester isn't playing corner, Roberto Garza shifted to center out of necessity, and you of course remember Danieal Manning (DMS). This probably happens with offensive tackles more than other positions. If a tackle proves to be slow afoot, and struggles blocking in space, move him inside where he's blocking a smaller area.
You may not like the thinking that drafting a left tackle with a fallback plan of moving him to the right side or even inside to guard, but that's what happens in the NFL. Collegiality, left tackles are the best offensive linemen on the field, so naturally they are valued higher than other positions along the line.
Does this position switch make the selection of Carimi in the first round a failure? I don't think it does, not yet anyway. We're not talking about an elite top 10 left tackle prospect, we're talking about a player picked at the bottom of round one, a place where guards are frequently picked. If he can lock down the right guard spot and goes on to be a consistent starter for the next five or six years, then there's nothing wrong with that. If he ends up a journeyman backup struggling to make a roster year after year, then yeah, epic fail, and you can look for my 'Cabe Carimi: The last of the Jerry Angelo Busts', article here on Windy City Gridiron.
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