The Chicago Bears pick twenty-ninth in this April’s draft and are a team that is looking to shore up its team to make another title run. The Bears were the NFC’s most unlikely title contender, making it all the way to the NFC Championship Game before the Green Bay Packers stopped them short.
The Bears success was largely on their solid defensive play, coupled with a steady offense. Additions on defense like Julius Peppers, Chris Harris, and Tim Jennings solidified their pass defense, which jumped from 24th ranked in 2009 to 5th ranked in 2010, according to Football Outsiders efficiency ratings.
Their offense didn’t really light it up, but they were able to run the ball more effectively, and Jay Cutler reduced his propensity to turn the ball over made a the Bears a good, but not great team. Now it’s time for them to try and find some greatness to put them over the top and be a challenger for Green Bay’s top spot in the division and conference.
The player that they think will provide that will be Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi.
The Bears are likely to try and shore up their defensive lines. The team cut Tommie Harris this off-season, and he’s likely to be replaced in the lineup by a steady rotation of Matt Toeiana, Marcus Harrison, and Henry Melton. But none are quite the pass rushers that Harris once was. Looking for that player late in the first round could be tough, but they may potentially find him Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson who was a disruptive presence in school. Stephen Paea could also be in the mix, but he might be considered a better fit at the nose tackle position that Anthony Adams already plays. Either way, the Bears are likely to address their need for a disruptive interior pass rusher early in the draft.
Their offensive line was also plagued by inconsistency throughout the year. THey were able to patch together a decent unit with LT Frank Omiyale, LG Chris Williams, OC Olin Kreutz, RG Roberto Garza, and RT J’Marcus Webb. Kreutz is a free agent, but they intend to bring him back. Garza is entrenched at the right guard spot. And while Webb had his struggles in pass protection at right tackle, it’s likely the Bears want to develop him, so he’s probably the safest of the remaining three to open next season in the same spot.
That leaves the left side with the biggest questions. The team originally drafted Chris Williams to be their bookend at left tackle, but an injury wiped out his rookie year, he played right tackle the following year, and spent most of last year at left guard after an early injury. To date, he’s given little hope that he is that type of player. The team has also moved around Omiyale quite a bit, originally signing him to play left guard (where he struggled), then last summer moved him to right tackle before he wound up on the left side after Williams went down with injury.
The best case scenario seems to draft a left tackle prospect that can solidify that spot, which would allow Williams to remain inside, and then allow the team to move Omiyale back to right tackle where he can push Webb. The good thing is that Williams and Omiyale are versatile enough to play three positions, which gives the team some flexibility. But they don’t want to play the musical chairs game anymore, and some stability is necessary going forward.
That likely will have them looking at Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod at left tackle. Sherrod is the more natural fit at left tackle, as many question whether Carimi has the quickness to hold up there. But Carimi is big, more polished, and also gives them the push on the ground that the team wants to get Matt Forte back moving. OL coach Mike Tice’s history tends to suggest he likes athletes at tackle, having supervised the drafting of Eugene Monroe and Bryant McKinnie in previous stops. That probably means the Bears would prefer to see someone like Anthony Castonzo or Nate Solder drop here. But if not, then they probably will go with Carimi because he had the stronger Combine between him and Sherrod. A sleeper candidate could be Marcus Cannon, who is raw and unpolished but certainly a unique athlete with his size.
The Bears don’t have any real strong needs elsewhere. They will probably look at receivers, since they lack a true No. 1 guy on the outside. Someone like Maryland’s Torrey Smith or Pitt’s Jon Baldwin would be enticing at this point in the draft.
A cornerback is also a possibility since Zack Bowman had a somewhat disappointing 2010 campaign. They might want to shore up depth there. Texas Aaron Williams probably is a better fit in their Cover-2 scheme, as well as Colorado’s Jimmy Smith if he was available.
More than likely, it will come down to the best available lineman, which in this case is either Carimi or Wilkerson. Since the defense is a bit more ahead of the offense, it probably gives Carimi the edge.