Watt goes to Texans; Bears take Carimi

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Gazette Wire Services
Friday, April 29, 2011

Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips says his renovation of the Texans’ defense begins with the draft.

The Chicago Bears needed help on their offensive line.

A pair of Wisconsin Badgers took care of those needs.

The Texans took Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt with the 11th overall pick Thursday night, and Phillips said the team won’t stop there as they try to bolster a unit that ranked 30th in yards allowed last season.

“We still need some more defensive players,” Phillips said. “What’s best for the team is what’s best for me, I don’t mean that. I think it’s clear that we need a lot of defense in this draft.”

Phillips is hoping that the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Watt develops into a solid complement for Mario Williams, the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 and Houston’s all-time sacks leader.

Watt made 43 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including 11 1/2 sacks, in 26 games at Wisconsin. A former tight end, Watt transferred there after playing one season at Central Michigan. He entered the draft after two seasons with the Badgers.

The Chicago Bears wanted Gabe Carimi so badly they set out to do something Jerry Angelo hadn’t done in nine previous drafts with the club.

They tried to trade up in the first round. Fearing the Chiefs were targeting Carimi with the 27th overall pick, the Bears worked to swing a deal with the Ravens at 26 to move up three spots. That fell through at the last minute and the Chiefs then jumped ahead of the Ravens, but they used the pick on Pitt wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin.

That left Carimi, the supremely confident four-year starter out of Wisconsin, to fall to the Bears. Talk about a swing of luck as they got their man without having to deal up. If Carimi had not been available, the Bears were poised to select Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

Carimi can be plugged in as a starting right tackle as a rookie and J’Marcus Webb, the seventh-round pick from last year, can get a shot at left tackle. Don’t discount the possibility the Bears look for another starter on the line in free agency, which could begin next week.

“I had a great feeling I would end up with the Bears,” said Carimi, a Wisconsin native. “I can’t be happier to play for them.”

Slipping in the draft—some thought he would go closer to the middle of the round—didn’t bother Carimi, who was gushing in a conference call.

“It really honestly doesn’t matter to me,” Carimi said. “The Bears picked me. I converted about 100 Packers fans to Bears fans. I cannot wait to play for MT (Mike Tice). He is one of the best coaches in the National Football League.”

Carimi, who replaced Joe Thomas at left tackle for the Badgers as a redshirt freshman in 2007, called himself the best tackle in the draft at the NFL scouting combine. Some clubs knocked him for his cockiness, but he said he never has done anything but support his teammates and have confidence in his ability on the line.

Carimi was the Big Ten offensive lineman of the year and was the leader of a physically punishing line that supported a top running game. There are questions about his ability in pass protection and that is why he projects on the right side. But he’s physical and nasty on the field.

As the third offensive lineman general manager Jerry Angelo has selected in the first round, he quickly could become the best. He also comes out of a pro-style offense that should facilitate his adjustment to the NFL.

If the Bears add a free-agent lineman, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Chris Williams, the 14th overall pick in 2008. Williams has played right tackle, left tackle and spent most of last season at left guard. The guard experiment didn’t work well.

Tice knows Carimi well because Tice’s son Nate is a reserve quarterback for the Badgers. Tice worked Carimi out during the Wisconsin pro day. Now, he has the first piece of the puzzle for a revamped line.

“I know I can play right away,” Carimi said. “That’s my best asset.”

Last updated: 4:52 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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