How To Build Roster Depth - The Most Important Backups

"Hey Josh, if you can back this team up to a .500 record if I'm out, the original caption of this picture will get your name spelled right eventually."

The Bears went out and got some solid players in free agency and the draft, working to build a much deeper team than in years past. CBS' Pat Kirwan decided to put down what he thought are ten important criteria, fourteen important backup players, that have to be able to contribute in order for a team to have the depth to survive injuries and make a deep run into the playoffs. Let's ignore the fact that that's 7 players per offense and defense, making 18 contributing offensive and defensive players, for 36 total, or well over half of the total roster. But while we're ignoring that, let's examine the criteria posted, Jim Miller's response on CSN Chicago, as well as which of the criteria actually matter.

First, when looking at the teams which fulfilled his criteria the best, here's what Kirwan had to say about the Bears...

A bit of a surprise team but the Bears have been busy. Two key free agent signings in back up roles are QB Jason Campbell, and RB Michael Bush. Also WRs Earl Bennett, Devon (sic) Hester, OLs Chris Williams, Chilo Rachal, DLs Israel Idonije, Stephen Paea, Chauncy Davis, LB Geno Hayes and DB Kelvin Hayes (sic) have all upgraded the depth on this roster.

Let's go ahead and also ignore the surprise expressed at how the Bears' chose to overhaul their roster, as well as our own surprise at CBS' apparent lack of an editor.

Now let's take a look at Miller's response to a few of the criteria Kirwan posed... In response to criteria number 5:

5. Have two experienced backup offensive linemen. A swing-tackle for either side or an experienced inside player for guard or center positions.

The Bears have it all on the offensive line. Chicago is very versatile up front. Just think of Chris Williams, if right tackle Gabe Carimi or left tackle J'Marcus Webb were to go down, Williams has started at both positions, along with experience playing at left guard. Chris Spencer can play guard or center along with Roberto Garza. The offseason signing of Chilo Richal brings even more playing experience on the offensive line to go with snaps logged last year at guard and tackle by Lance Louis. Chicago has tremendous flexibility up front.

Funny how that tremendous flexibility has led to such a dominating offensive line the last two seasons. I mean, Frank Omiyale could move from guard to tackle and everything!

Now in response to criteria 6:

6. Have third defensive tackle that could play a whole game if a starter went down.

Between Stephen Paea, Matt Toeaina, Israel Idonije, Henry Melton, and recently signed veterans like Chauncey Davis, and DeMario Pressley, there will be nice competition during camp. The depth is there.

I'm pretty sure Davis was signed to end once Nick Reed and Mario Addison were jettisoned and as of right now Idonije is pretty much required to play end.

Anyway, a few thoughts on the overall criteria - I think they overreach a little. Is it nice if a backup could come in and perform like a starter? Well, yeah, you'd love to have a backup come in and play without missing a single beat, and I'm sure most teams would love to have a depth chart (such as at receiver) of Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall and AJ Green. The problem is if a guy a team targets as a backup is good enough to start on another team - guess what, he's going to start on another team if he gets the chance.

Honestly, the most reasonable criteria on the list might be the first and seventh - a quarterback that might be able to spurt your team to a .500 record when he has to play and a pass-rush specialist to get after the quarterback. The rest of the criteria are basically "Have a starter here" or "Be lucky enough to have a special teamer who can contribute at a starter level when called into action."

You can't always have a starter-ability backup on demand - hence, my question to you today...

Which position(s) is (are) most important to have a starter-capable backup at?

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