With a roster heavy on veterans and only one change on the coaching staff (defensive line), the Bears were not hurt by the lockout as much as teams trying to rebuild under new leadership. There's a good chance many, if not all, of Chicago's players would have benefited in some way from a full and normal offseason. Without the ability to meet with coaches and use team facilities, the development of some key younger players was stunted. Here are the five Bears players most affected by the lockout, counting down from No. 5:
5. DT Henry Melton — The Bears are excited about Melton's potential and would like to see him earn the starting three-technique job. Melton gained some valuable playing experience last season, but he's trying to make the jump from being a bit player to a starter. He has limited time to get comfortable and secure a spot as a starter.
4. S Major Wright — Wright is expected to move into the starting lineup if Danieal Manning departs in free agency, and it appears there's a good chance Manning will do so. Still raw entering his second season, Wright missed time last season because of a string of injuries that started in training camp and he also missed out on a chance to experience his first full offseason because of the work stoppage. It's far from certain that he's ready to be a dependable starter, but he could be thrown into the fire.
3. QB Jay Cutler — Cutler had some private workouts with his receivers during the lockout, and that's a good thing, but those can't compare to a session overseen by coordinator Mike Martz. One of Cutler's biggest weaknesses is technique and he missed out on valuable opportunities to work on his mechanics, specifically footwork, with Martz. Cutler and Martz lead an offense that ranked 30th in the league last season, and making big leaps will be difficult with so little time before games start.
2. OT J'Marcus Webb — In only his second season, Webb, a seventh-round pick in 2010, is expected to become Jay Cutler's blind-side protector. Indications are Webb will shift from right tackle, where he started 12 games last season, to the left side, and while he's a promising young player, it will be asking a lot of him to make the transition and be ready to keep Cutler upright consistently come Sept. 11 when he's lining up against the Falcons' defensive line. He'll have to overcome a lot to make this work right away.
1. OT Gabe Carimi — The Bears' first-round pick is going to start somewhere on the O-line, and most likely at right tackle. He didn't have a playbook to study, though, and will have to learn terminology on the fly. Draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki wrote in the PFW 2011 Draft Preview that Carimi is "smart and assignment-sound" and Carimi said this month that he has watched clips of every Bears pass and run from last season. He apparently has prepared well on his own, but the lockout was a major hindrance for potential rookie starters. Offensive line coach Mike Tice has to bring him up to speed quickly.
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