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D. Orlando Ledbetter

Why has Gabe Carimi been a bust so far?

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New Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice must think he can salvage the career of his former pupil Gabe Carimi, who's been with two teams already after being drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft.   (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

New Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice must think he can salvage the career of his former pupil Gabe Carimi, who’s been with two teams already after being drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Gabe Carimi was thought to be the next great tackle out of Wisconsin.

Some NFL personnel men thought he was going to follow in the huge footsteps of Cleveland Browns great Joe Thomas and anchor the left side of the Chicago Bears line for 10 years.

But in the microwave era, where teams just work with players for what seems like a couple of minutes and then run them out on the field, Carimi’s career hasn’t been able to gain traction.

In the old days, he would have been allowed to develop. But the Bears and the Buccaneers have not been able to get Carimi up to speed over three seasons.

The Falcons and new assistant coach Mike Tice will now get the chance to salvage some of Carimi’s potential.

In The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Special report –  A nine-part series previewing the 2011 NFL draft, we were high on Carimi, too.

Top 10 offensive linemen in the NFL draft

1. Anthony Castonzo, Boston College, 6-foot-7, 311 pounds: He made a school-record 54 consecutive starts for the Eagles. He is considered an elite pass protector who will need to get more push as a run blocker at the pro level.

2. Nate Solder, Colorado, 6-8, 318: He was the Big 12’s offensive lineman of the year and a finalist for the Outland Trophy. He had 142 pancake blocks last season and received a 94 percent grade from the coaching staff.

3. Tyron Smith, USC, 6-5, 307: He was named the Pac-10’s top offensive lineman after starting 12 games at right tackle. Some consider him the best athlete of the tackle group.

4. Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin; 6-7, 316: He was an All-American and winner of the Outland Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top offensive lineman. He keyed the Badgers’ power running attack with bone-rattling blocks. He’s the classic road grader.

Here’s what Ourlads’ National Scouting Service had to say about the Bears landing Carimi with the 29th pick of the 2011 draft.

The Bears accomplished one goal and filled a logical need by drafting left tackle Gabe Carimi. Carimi was projected to be drafted earlier than pick 29, but with all the quarterbacks and defensive linemen being selected, the rangy tackle fell into Chicago’s lap.

The sky was supposed to be the limit for Carimi.

Gabe Carimi was a four-year starter at Wisconsin where he won the Outland Trophy last season as the nation’s best interior lineman. He has the coveted long arms and big hands for the left tackle position and will compete with Frank Omiyale. The rangy tackle played toe to toe against several of the top first round pass rushers over the past two years. Week after week he saw the likes of Brandon Graham, Adrian Clayborn, Cameron Heyward, and Ryan Kerrigan. In practice he got a workout from first rounder, JJ Watt.

My main man and Hall of Famer Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel was the first to point out that Carimi wasn’t a left tackle and that he might struggle in the NFL.

In February, Carimi proclaimed himself the No. 1 tackle in the draft, saying, “I’m physically stronger and have more career starts and better knowledge of the game than any other tackle out there.”

But with the National Football League draft less than a week away, the consensus of teams is Carimi ranks No. 4 on the list of tackles and won’t have a successful career if he remains at the left-tackle position that he manned the past four seasons for the Badgers.

That isn’t to suggest personnel people don’t think Carimi will be a good player. They do, but many say it will be on the right side.

“He probably ends up being a right tackle in this league, or at least that’s where you project him,” said Bill Polian, vice chairman of the Indianapolis Colts. “But he’s a good, solid football player. He’s a hardworking, blue-collar, knock ‘em around guy. Run blocking is his strong suit.”

This month, a cross-section of 25 scouts, almost all with national orientation, was asked by the Journal Sentinel if Carimi would be successful at left tackle. Fourteen said no, 11 said yes.

“No way. No way,” an NFC personnel director said. “I can’t understand the love. He’s slow-footed. He’s not powerful for a guy his size. He’s on the ground all the time. I just don’t see it. I know some people will try to compare the two, but (Bryan) Bulaga was a lot better.”

What has happened?

Knee problems that dogged Carimi in college followed him to the pros. He dislocated his knee cap in his second NFL game. According to some reports, the player some called the “The Jewish Hammer” had trouble anchoring and was pushed around as rookie. (The Falcons should have seen enough of that last season!)

Then he rubbed the new regime the wrong way by staying away from OTAs to get his knee healthy. He was quickly shown the door and traded for a sixth-round pick.

He got a second shot in Tampa Bay, but couldn’t hold down the left guard spot after Carl Nicks went down with a MRSA infection. He was basically insurance last season.

He was cut by new Bucs coach Lovie Smith, who had him seen enough of Carimi as his head coach in 2011 and 2012 in Chicago.

Maybe Tice and the Falcons can salvage his career at right tackle. If they can’t, this may be Carimi’s last stop on the NFL train.

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