Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
“Depth seems to be a key issue for NFL teams in playoff contention every year. Where do you see the biggest depth risk for the Bears? Wide receiver, offensive line or linebacker? – Pat G., Ortonville, Mich.”
“Depth is a factor but from where I sit it’s overblown. Victories on Sundays are typically determined by elite players. One scout a long time ago told me it’s about which teams’ blues (elite players are called blues by scouts) have a better game. That will determine the outcome of most games because reality is when front-line players are lost, it’s difficult to compete, period. The Bears have plenty of bodies at linebacker right now but only one locked in starter. That is a position to keep an eye on. They made a move to shore up depth at cornerback in the first round of the draft. Safety is a great unknown and there isn’t a lot behind Martellus Bennett at tight end. But under the NFL’s salary cap and with some players on the roster commanding high pay, it’s going to be downright impossible to feel covered with veterans at every position.”
I’m going to simultaneously agree and mildly disagree with Biggs here. I think depth is an issue in that you at least need players who can step in and not be liabilities when your blues go down. Having quality backups is important but, as he points out, your ability to add depth is limited by things like the salary cap. So the difference in how teams make up for injuries to stay in the hunt comes down to what you can do with what depth you can get.
When quarterback Jay Cutler went down last year, I’d like to think that Josh McCown’s excellent play in his place was the result of good coaching. I’ve thought for some years that the Bears needed a head coach that had a background in coaching quarterbacks and was overjoyed when they hired one in Marc Trestman after Lovie Smith’s departure. If that’s the case, then whoever the back up is this year – and I’m betting on Jordan Palmer – will play every bit as well as McCown did and we’ll know the Bears were more than just lucky last year.
You might also note that the Bears went out and got the best offensive line coach they could find and made him offensive coordinator. That isn’t a coincidence as the performance of the line affects every aspect of the offensive play. By the same theory, this bodes well for the depth there. And the new coaches for the defense will also help in this respect to prevent the total collapse we saw in the front seven last year.
Having said that, if Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall go down for any period of time, the offense is going to be in more trouble than most would under the same circumstances. No amount of coaching is going to overcome that loss. As Biggs points out, the depth at tightend is deplorable and its probably the most injured position in football. I’ve seen nothing from Michael Ford that makes me think he’ll be a decent starter and I’ve literally seen nothing of Ka’Deem Carey, period. So I’m not holding my breath on Matt Forte’s backups, either.
Bottom line, I wouldn’t get my hopes up that the offense won’t take at least a little bit of a fall this year when it is less healthy than last year (as is likely going to be the case).