Bears

Most Important Bears: No. 8 Gabe Carimi

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Gabe Carimi. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Gabe Carimi. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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(CBS) As we count down to Bourbonnais, a panel of 15 670 The Score hosts, reporters and producers ranked their top 10 most important Bears players for the 2012 season. We compiled the rankings into one master list and will release the 10 Most Important Bears over the next 10 weekdays.

Next up:

No. 8 Gabe Carimi (42 points)

Most were surprised when the Bears chose not to draft a single offensive lineman in April, but in Phil Emery’s mind, he already had a first-round-caliber offensive tackle in Gabe Carimi.

Carimi, of course, was the Bears’ 29th overall selection in 2011, but only played five quarters last season after dislocating his knee Week 2 in New Orleans. Before the injury — in his extremely limited reps — the right tackle looked like the Bears’ best offensive lineman, but concerns were raised when OTAs rolled around in May and Carimi still wasn’t completely healthy. The Wisconsin-product was full-go by mini-camp, however, and heads into training camp healthy.

That’s good news for the Bears, who desperately need the offensive line to perform better this season. The Bears appear to have a ton of faith in Carimi, assuming he is healthy. The scouts will say he can still improve in pass protection, but he’s a mauler in the running game and is arguably the best offensive lineman going into the season. That said, he is still very inexperienced in the NFL and will have to prove himself.

Training camp will be a huge test of Carimi, as it’s been 10 months since he’s gone head-to-head against an NFL defensive lineman in pads. Even though he barely played last season, the Bears need him to enter the season looking more like a second-year pro rather than a rookie. That might be asking a lot, but for a team that badly needs to keep Jay Cutler upright, Carimi’s play could be a major key to the season.

In fact, some would argue he should be even higher on the list of most important Bears for 2012.

The right-tackle should benefit from the departure of Mike Martz. Mike Tice’s scheme is much more similar to Carimi’s college offense and he has a relationship with Tice going back to Wisconsin where the offensive coordinator’s son was his teammate. Assuming he stays healthy, 2012 should be a breakout year for a player the Bears hope they can count on for years to come.

The Rest Of The List:
No. 9 Henry Melton
No. 10 Shea McClellin

The 10 Most Important Bears were decided by 15 Score contributors who ranked their most important players from  1-10. The rankings were then compiled into a master list by assigning point values to the votes (a No. 1 vote is worth 10 points and a No. 10 vote is worth 1 point).

The panel: Mike Mulligan, Zach Zaidman, Laurence Holmes, Matt Spiegel, Adam Hoge, Jason Goff, Matt Abbatacola, Ben Finfer, Jay Zawaski, Nick Shepkowski, David Schuster, Herb Lawrence, Craig Miller, Dennis Gambino and Brendan McCaffrey.

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