Bears: Gabe Carimi
Carimi missed OTA sessions on Monday and Tuesday, the first two workouts of 10 league-mandated OTAs, and was the only player on the team eligible to attend who did not.
"This is a voluntary situation, and every player has to make his own decisions," Emery told Sirius XM NFL Radio. "Gabe has made a decision. He wants to stay in Arizona and train. We respect that, and we'll welcome (him) with open arms when he comes back."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears guard Gabe Carimi missed his second consecutive organized team activity on Tuesday, raising questions about his long-term future with the team that made him the 29th overall selection of the 2011 NFL Draft.
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He was the only one eligible to attend who did not, according to a source. Rookie first-round pick Kyle Long is among a handful of players who cannot participate in the remainder of the offseason program due to Oregon being on the quarter system and having final exams that run through June 14.
The Bears are set at left tackle with Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod.
On the right side - it’s a different story.
Veterans J'Marcus Webb and Jonathan Scott are expected to battle it out for the starting right tackle job, but neither is assured of a spot long-term. Webb and Scott are signed through 2013.
Mills is a versatile player who lined up primarily at tackle at Louisiana Tech, but also spent time at guard in 2009. At 6-5, 315 pounds, Mills has the size to play offensive tackle in the NFL, however, the Bears do seem determined to plug in larger bodies inside at guard.
“I’ll play anywhere, left side or right side.” Mills. “I told my coaches I’ll play anywhere they need me. Wherever they need me to win, I’ll be there. Like I told my coaches, if they need me at H-Back to lead block, I’ll do that.”
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery confirmed that Webb has been flipped to right tackle following the signing of two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod to a five-year, $35.9 million contract on Tuesday.
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJ'Marcus Webb will get a chance to earn the starting right tackle job.
Carimi also will get a look inside at guard, according to Emery.
"He'll have opportunities both at tackle and guard," Emery said. "We'll see what is the best fit for Gabe. I'm excited to see how he comes back and competes at both those spots so we can find the best five to put together."
At the moment, Webb appears to be the front-runner to be the Week 1 right tackle, barring injury. But the former seventh-round pick out of West Texas A&M did himself no favors last month off the field. Webb had a highly-publicized run-in with the law in downstate Illinois on Feb. 27 when he was arrested during a traffic stop for allegedly being in possession of a controlled substance. The charges were later dropped.
Emery said the organization spoke with Webb shortly after the incident.
"We definitely sat down and talked to J'Marcus," Emery said on Wednesday. "We definitely let him know what our expectation level is and what our standards are, and we certainly expect that he will work diligently in meeting those expectations and standards and continue to compete for his job and add to the team."
This is a critical year for Webb, who is entering the final season of his rookie contract.
Kudos to Kromer, coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery for recognizing and finally acting on such an obvious liability. We've spent so much time discussing the state of the Bears' offensive line, and their annually unreasonable requests of former line coach Mike Tice to patch it together, that it feels surreal to acknowledge such a significant move.
Webb presumably will be given a chance to compete at right tackle, the position where he began his career and where 2011 first-round draft pick Gabe Carimi has flopped.
In 40 regular-season games over the past three seasons, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has absorbed 113 sacks -- the highest per-game percentage in the NFL and the third most in raw sack numbers among quarterbacks during that stretch, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Cutler's shove and verbal harangue of Webb in Week 2 last season was but one illustration of his frustration with the Bears' pass protection over his tenure.
The Bears still have work to do, even after signing Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett. Right guard Lance Louis remains unsigned, as is left guard Chris Spencer. The Bears want Louis back but will need to find a replacement for Spencer. It's also a bit scary to know that the top two candidates to play right tackle are both previously deposed starters. And let's not forget that center Roberto Garza has always been considered a stopgap replacement for Olin Kreutz, not necessarily a long-term replacement.
But left tackle is by far the most important position on the offensive line. The Saints didn't have the salary-cap space to keep Bushrod, and quite frankly I don't know how the Bears did, either. That's a discussion for another day. In the end, the Bears decided to stop their five-year charade at the position and have finally addressed it in a substantive way. Can you believe it?
The development tells us two things. First, the Vikings are nearing a deadline for keeping intact the offensive line they believed they had established for the long term last season. Second, the Bears are serious about addressing their offensive line -- so much so that they would spend relatively premium money, perhaps more than $5 million annually -- to replace the player they drafted in the first round just two years ago.
Yes, if the Bears land Loadholt, the best-case scenario for Gabe Carimi would seem to be competing for a starting guard position. There have also been multiple reports, including this one from Alex Marvez of Fox Sports, that connect the Bears and free-agent left tackle Jake Long. Loadholt figures to be a more affordable option if the Bears want a starting tackle in free agency.
The Vikings already had more than enough salary-cap space to sign Loadholt, but it's worth noting they created more Tuesday morning by restructuring the contract of tight end John Carlson. (Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com has details.)
Again, these are the types of exciting/agonizing moments that the free-agent deadline brings. I really don't think the Vikings want to lose Loadholt, given their lack of an internal replacement, and they certainly don't want to see him strengthen one of their division rivals. I wouldn't be surprised if we have a resolution on this one by the end of Tuesday.
Melton is listed as doubtful on the official injury report and could miss his second straight game after hurt his shoulder/chest in first half of the Bears' 28-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 25.
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireThe Bears' Gabe Carimi will fill in at guard this week against the Seahawks.
Offensive coordinator Mike Tice pointed to 2004 second-overall pick Robert Gallery as an example of a player drafted to play tackle, and eventually moved inside to guard. But it would be shortsighted for the Bears to seriously consider a similar move long-term for Carimi, who was demoted as the starting right tackle last week, if he plays well at guard against the Seahawks.
Carimi might serve as a temporary fix for the rest of the 2012 season, but beyond that he needs to be given another shot at right tackle.
Which team will be at the top of the division standings at the end of the season? Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: The Bears will win the NFC North.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. The Bears still have to prove they can defeat Green Bay before we can anoint them NFC North champions. But with a one-game lead over the Packers in the standings, the Bears hold their own destiny heading into Sunday's home game against the Seattle Seahawks. Right now, it looks as if the Bears have a good shot to win their fourth division title under Lovie Smith, but until they can find a way to knock off Green Bay, that kind of talk is somewhat premature.
Kevin Reece/Icon SMIAaron Rodgers has led the Packers to wins in five of their past six games.
Michael C. Wright: Fact. It won't be easy to beat Minnesota at its house on Dec. 9, followed by a struggling Packers squad at home on Dec. 16. But the Bears proved in the 2011 finale they could defeat the Vikings on the road, and I’'m not sure Green Bay can fix its myriad issues sufficiently enough before its meeting with the Bears. It's somewhat concerning that Chicago plays its last two games on the road at Arizona, before finishing up at Detroit. Despite Arizona's 4-7 record, a trip to the West Coast won't be easy. But then again, by then, it's likely the Cardinals would have already given up on the season. Besides, victories in the next three games could pretty much wrap up the division for the Bears. They're certainly capable of winning the next three, but they've got to get off to a good start toward accomplishing that goal Sunday against the Seahawks.
Scott Powers: Fiction. I still think it's the Packers' division to take. They weren't too impressive against the Giants, but I could see the Packers winning out. Their remaining schedule is Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago, Tennessee and Minnesota. If the Bears defeat Seattle on Sunday, the division likely will come down to their game with the Packers on Dec. 16 at Soldier Field. The Bears have struggled against the league’'s elite teams so far, including their early-season loss to Green Bay, so the Packers have the edge as of now.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Green Bay is going to come into Soldier Field and steal a win on Dec. 16. I took a spin through ESPN.com’'s Playoff Machine, and I had the Bears and Packers going 12-4, with Green Bay taking the tiebreaker. The Bears better hope that doesn't happen, because it could mean they travel to play the New York Giants in the first round. That spells trouble for Cutler and the Bears' chances to return to the NFC championship.
AP Photo/David StlukaGabe Carimi will start at right guard for the Bears on Sunday.
Pro Football Focus (PFF), which charts the result of each block for every game, has Carimi with 44 quarterback disruptions on 347 snaps as a pass-blocker this season. That figure includes seven sacks, 28 pressures and nine quarterback hits, and it qualifies him for the third-worst pass-blocking efficiency among NFL tackles this season.
"He is simply awful in protection," said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. "He gets beat with power, speed, you name it."
Sometimes a below-average pass-blocker can be protected if he moves to guard, but Williamson suggested that Carimi's 6-foot-7 frame could be a hindrance there.
"Being so tall on the interior is really tough when trying to get leverage against B.J. Raji/Vince Wilfork types," Williamson said. "If/when he plays high, NFL defensive tackles are going to totally walk him deep into the pocket. And now that liability is even closer to the quarterback than when he was at right tackle."
Carimi is expected to start at right guard Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, mostly because the Bears' options are limited. Two guards who have started games this season, Lance Louis and Chilo Rachal, won't play again in 2012. A third, Chris Spencer, has a knee injury that could sideline him for a week or two.
In the long-term, however, the Bears must decide whether a poor 10-game stretch is enough to render final judgment on a former first-round draft pick who has made a total of 12 NFL starts. My guess is Carimi will get another chance, especially considering how well he has blocked for the run.
Williamson said Carimi has been "an excellent run-blocker" and thus should still be considered a prospect with "starting right tackle abilities." PFF rates him third among all NFL tackles in run-blocking. As a right tackle in a run-based offense, Carimi doesn't have to be an elite pass-blocker. But he does need to be much better than he was this season.
Perhaps that's why Bears quarterback Jay Cutler didn't hesitate when stating what needs to take place Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in order for the offensive line to experience success.
"We've just got to be careful of what we ask those guys to do, make sure they're on the same page, (and) protect them," Cutler said. "You don't want to throw a lot of sevens (seven-step drops) and chuck the ball 40-50 times. They're not programmed for it. They're in new positions. Some guys haven't even played guard. We've just got to be smart with it."