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Gabe Carimi NFL Draft 2011

In a first round of the NFL draft that featured some wild picks and moves, the Bears were afforded some clarity when their turn arrived around 10:15 Thursday night.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said last week the club was open to four to six different positions.
Gabe Carimi NFL Draft 2011But if they needed any extra push, the Bears received the nudge when the Detroit Lions beefed up an already scary defensive line by taking Nick Fairley with the 13th overall pick.

With a run of offensive linemen being snapped up, the Bears talked to the Baltimore Ravens about moving from the 29th pick to the 26th, but they didn’t consummate a deal.

“We dropped the ball, I dropped the ball,” Angelo said. “What’s been done can’t be undone.

“[Baltimore] did everything according to the rules.”

The Bears were going to trade up to get Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi, concerned other teams might move up ahead of them, but they still ended up getting him at No. 29.

The Bears didn’t have much choice.

Last season, they gave up a league-high 56 sacks, including one of the most regrettable offensive-line performances in NFL history, when Jay Cutler was sacked an NFL-record nine times in the first half against the New York Giants.

Although he started last season, Chris Williams hasn’t fulfilled the team’s selection of him with the 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft, sliding from tackle to guard. And with the potential seventh-rounder J’Marcus Webb flashed last season, Williams appears destined to start inside, with Carimi starting outside.

There are questions, however, on whether Carimi is athletic enough to start at left tackle.

“Wherever the Bears need me,” Carimi said Thursday night, “I’m going to be able to be plugged in.”

“Obviously, I think I can play left tackle,” Carimi said at the NFL Combine. “It’s up to the organization what their needs and wants are.”

Webb finished last season at right tackle, but he may be athletic enough to swing over to the left side.

Regardless, what’s clear is that Carimi has the credibility and confidence. He replaced Joe Thomas (third overall pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2007) at Wisconsin, and he claimed the prestigious Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s lineman, after faring well against highly-regarded pass rushers like Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan (16th to Washington Redskins), Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn (20th to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward (31st to the Pittsburgh Steelers).

That’s probably because he faced teammate J.J. Watt (11th overall to the Houston Texans) in practice every day.

“I have a better resume of going against better talent than anyone else, so that makes me more [pro] ready,” Carimi said at the combine, adding that he’s stronger and has many starts under his belt. “That’s why I’m the No. 1 tackle out there.’”

Asked Thursday about his confidence/cockiness, Carimi said, “It was just my confidence in my ability to play my position.

“There’s not going to be any issue with that.”

Cutler didn’t comment about the team’s first-round selection. But his fiancee, actress Kristin Cavallari, made a funny comment on Twitter.

“Yay, we got an offensive lineman!!! Go Bears,” she wrote.

According to STATS, first-round offensive linemen have made an immediate impact in the last few years.

Since 2006, more than 60 percent of teams (14 of 23) that drafted offensive linemen in the first round and had him start 10 games increased their New York Life Protection Index, with 64 percent of those teams registering double-digit improvements.

That’s key for the Bears since they rank dead last in that index, according to a formula that factors in length of a team’s pass attempts combined with penalties by offensive linemen, sacks allowed and quarterback hurries and knockdowns.

Interestingly, the Browns gained 42.8 index points after selecting Thomas in 2007.

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