Jay Cutler and 7 Chicago Bears with the Most to Prove in 2011

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IJune 6, 2011

Jay Cutler and 7 Chicago Bears with the Most to Prove in 2011

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears throws the ball against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    With the NFL lockout putting a damper on preparations for the upcoming NFL season, we have plenty of time to speculate and look at our favorite teams.  We may dream about what they could be capable of doing despite the fact that there hasn’t been anything close to the usual offseason.  We think about the players that were part of the team last year and how they might do in 2011.  Will the stars step up?  Is there someone else on the team that might be a surprise player next season?

    The Bears, like every other team in the NFL, have players that need to prove something next season.  Chicago has eight guys that need to step things up and help either lead the team in 2011 or play better than they did last season.

    Let’s take a look at those eight guys and find out what they have to do to step it up in 2011.

Jay Cutler

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears under center against the Seattle Seahawks in the second quarter of the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Andy Ly
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Cutler is probably one of the most scrutinized Bears on the roster.  After what happened to him in the NFC Championship game last January people are going to be looking to see exactly what he can do to “redeem” himself (if that should even be the case).  This will be Cutler’s second year in the offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s system so you would think that things would be better. But without a true number one wide receiver things are going to be tough.

    He has to prove that he’s going to be a winner in order to get over all of the criticism so he will go into the new season with a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove to everyone.

Matt Forte

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The question here is whether or not Forte repeat what he did last year again.  Forte had a nice start to his career as a rookie but dropped off the next season (2009) and didn’t play well.  He bounced back in 2010 and helped lead the Bears on offense and improve their running game (which started off slow).  Fans want to know if Forte is going to be able to do it again in 2010.

    By doing as good or better than he did last year, Forte will answer his critics and prove that he’s going to be a consistent running back each and every season.

Johnny Knox

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Johnny Knox #13 of the Chicago Bears runs ahead of Tramon Williams #38 of the Green Bay Packers for a 32-yard gain in the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (P
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    It’s finally time that Knox became a productive member of the offense in 2011. Knox was productive at times during the 2010 season but he struggled running precise and accurate routes and he and Cutler had a hard time connecting sometimes.  Overall consistency is what robbed Knox of a 1,000 yard season last year so a more consistent effort this year will get him over that hump and help the offense as well.

    This is Knox’s third year with the Bears and everyone is going to expect him to finally put things together and become a better than good wide receiver.  That’s why this is an important season for Knox, another Chicago Bear’s player that has something to prove in 2011.

Brandon Manumaleuna

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    DETROIT - DECEMBER 05:  Brandon Manumaleuna #86 of the Chicago Bears celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 5, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The Bears defeated the Lions 24-20.  (Photo by Leo
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    The Bears brought Manumaleuna in with the intent that he would be able to act as another offensive linemen in passing situations and help block. Unfortunately, his blocking skills last season left a lot to be desired.  In fact, anyone watching him had to cringe.  There were times when it looked like he wasn’t even making an effort and would let his man go right on by and sack the quarterback.

    If he makes it through training camp, Manumaleuna is going to have to prove his worth as a blocking tight end and he needs to perform much better than he did last season.

Henry Melton

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Henry Melton #69 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after teammate Chris Harris intercepted a pass in the final minutes as Nick Mangold #74 and Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets walk off of the field at Soldier Field on December
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Melton saw steady improvement over the course of last season and it’s time for him to have his breakout season.  He had a few good plays last year when he was in the lineup and with the promise that he will be used much more in 2011, Melton will need to step it up.

    With the defensive line undergoing some changes (losing Tommie Harris and adding Stephen Paea) Melton needs to come in and play well.  If he can’t that line could be in trouble.

Chris Harris

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 03:  Hakeem Nicks #88 of the New York Giants runs with the ball against Chris Harris #46 and Charles Tillman #33 of the Chicago Bears at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 3, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Mi
    Michael Heiman/Getty Images

    It’s likely that Harris is going to be the starter once again this season and he’s going to be under the microscope.  Harris had his moments, both good and bad, but he did a lot to help give the Bears some stability in that part of the secondary and does know the defensive system well.  In addition, he is aggressive and knows how to come up with the big play.

    Fans are going to hope that Harris is capable of cleaning up some of the mistakes made last year and have a solid season.  He will definitely have a lot to prove this year.

J’Marcus Webb

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Sam Shields #37 of the Green Bay Packers intercepts the game's final pass and runs for 32-yards to seal the 21-14 victory for the Packers against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 201
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    It’s not known yet where Webb is going to play (right or left tackle) but the Bears are high on him after he had a reasonably stable season last year.  Webb, a seventh round draft pick in last year’s draft, was thrust into the starting role after the Bears had to do some shuffling due to injury and he ended up being stuck at right guard.  He had those down moments as you would expect from a rookie but he got better as the season went on and has a lot of potential heading into this season.

    Webb has to show that he is capable of starting at the left tackle position this coming season because it’s not known if he will play there.  If he does, the expectations for him will be high and he will have a lot to prove to the fans and the coaching staff.

Zachary Bowman

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    CHICAGO - DECEMBER 28: Zackary Bowman #35 of the Chicago Bears reacts after missing an interception against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on December 28, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Vikings 36-30 in overtime. (Photo by Jonat
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Bowman’s problem last season was that he couldn’t tackle and was eventually replaced by Tim Jennings.  Bowman was the starter heading into the season and the coaching staff felt that he was well on his way towards becoming a solid starting cornerback.  But in the Bear’s first game against the Packers, Bowman had a serious problem tackling and the coaching staff pulled him out and put Jennings in. Bowman didn’t see much action after that.

    If there is to be a competition between Bowman and Jennings then Bowman has to prove he can tackle (in particular against the run) and that his coverage skills are much better.  If he does manage to win the starting job he will have to prove that he can be an accurate tackler and not let those ball carriers get by him.  And if he did end up starting he would be on a very short leash.