Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has worked hard in his few years on the job, turning over the entire roster. He's not only looking to add impact players, but also to build depth to withstand any injuries his team could incur. He's constantly scouring the waiver wire to ensure that he has the best possible options for his coaching staff to utilize.
Pat Kirwan, CBS Sports NFL Insider, has a list of thirteen questions he believes each team must answer to determine whether or not they have the type of depth needed to win a championship.
We'll examine each of the 13 questions to see how far off the Bears are. Each question will receive a yes or no answer; there will be no undecided cop-out answers by me on this exercise.
1. Does your team have a capable backup QB that can go at least 2-2 in a four-game stretch?
This is a tricky one, because the Bears have the quarterback whisperer in Marc Trestman. His track record with quarterbacks is pretty good, but the Bears have a couple of untested players vying for the #2 job. In Jordan Palmer the Bears have a player that was around in 2013, so there's a certain comfort level with him knowing the offense. The problem that is he only has 15 career passing attempts since 2008.
Jimmy Clausen has more experience, starting 10 games as a rookie in 2010, but he didn't look very good back then. Keep in mind he was a rookie, playing on a bad team, so he's probably capable of playing better.
Since the backup QB situation is still up in the air, I'll have to answer this question with a no.
2. Does your team have a real swing offensive tackle, a guy that can play left or right tackle and has experience?
The Bears' swing tackle can not only play tackle, but also guard and tight end. Eben Briton has 20 career o-line starts under his belt and, while he's a backup for a reason, he's also looked good since he's been in Chicago. I'll give this one a yes.
3. Does your team have a solid inside offensive lineman that can play guard or center?
Not only do the Bears have such a player, but Brian de la Puente racked up 44 starts in three years with the New Orleans Saints, so this is a yes as well.
4. Is there a quality second running back that can deliver a 100-yard rushing day if he had to start?
Well, I'd like to say yes, as I have confidence in rookie Ka'Deem Carey, but until we see him in pads on the professional level how can I?
Some are high on Michael Ford, or undrafted rookies Jordan Lynch or Senorise Perry, but that's a whole lot of unknown behind starter Matt Forte. This is a no.
5. Is there a good second tight end on the roster?
Back up offensive lineman Eben Britton played more reserve snaps at tight end last season than did primary backup TE Dante Rosario. After Rosario the Bears have even more question marks battling it out for a roster spot, so the answer to this question is no.
6. Can the third wide receiver step up and start in the two-WR packages if a starter went down?
This one is tricky, because the player most project to be the third wide out only has two career receptions. So basing my answer off Marquess Wilson I would have to say no. But, don't forget the Bears signed Josh Morgan to compete for the 3rd WR spot, and he has started 54 games in his six year career. So even though I feel Wilson wins the 3rd WR job, Morgan has the experience to step up and start if Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall are injured. The yes has it.
7. Does your team have a designated pass-rush specialist who could play the early downs if need be?
Thanks to Phil Emery, the Bears have a quality pass rushing 3rd DE in Willie Young and two quality starting DEs in Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston. This one is a yes too.
8. Is there a third defensive tackle that not only plays in a rotation but could play the whole game if need be?
Right now the third defensive tackle is coming off a knee injury but, before he was hurt last year, Nate Collins was playing some very good football. He received his full medical clearance earlier this month, and he should be in rotation with Stephen Paea and Jeremiah Ratliff. If by some chance Collins is beaten out in the rotation by one of the two rookies, then that gives the Bears at least a couple of solid backup guys. I'm going yes on this one.
9. Is there a quality nickel corner on the roster, since most teams are at least 50 percent sub defenses?
The Bears did spend a #1 draft pick on a reserve cornerback. They return last season's #1 nickel and they get another experienced veteran back from injury. It was also revealed in camp that the Bears will move starting corner Tim Jennings inside to nickel on sub packages. I think between Jennings, Kyle Fuller, Isaiah Frey and Kelvin Hayden, the Bears will be OK at the position. Yes to question number nine.
10. Is there a fourth corner for dime packages?
See above, so yes.
11. Is there a third safety for big nickel defenses?
This is where it gets interesting.
Have the Bears ever trotted out a big nickel? They did just add Adrian Wilson who, along with Ryan Mundy, will be in the mix at strong safety. I suppose the loser could play big nickel. Rookie corner Kyle Fuller has experience playing both safety and linebacker, so he could be packaged as a big nickel against a team if needed. Chris Conte may lose his free safety job to Brock Vereen, so the loser in that race could play as a big nickel.
But since safety was such a sore spot last year, and Wilson is coming off an injury, I don't think we can just assume a team struggling to find some consistency at safety will all of the sudden find a 3rd quality safety. I have to go no on this one.
12. Is there a return specialist that can either handle both punt and kick returns or contribute as a real position player?
I'm excited to see what Chris Williams can do. He electrified the CFL as a returner, but he also played wide receiver. In 2012 while with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, he returned 5 punts for TDs, and had 83 receptions for 1,298 yards with 11 TDs. But, and you knew there'd be a "but", he couldn't break through the New Orleans Saints' lineup in 2013, so is he really a player that we should count on?
The Bears also have Eric Weems back, who has return experience, but he's four years removed from his Pro Bowl returner season. Armanti Edwards and Michael Spurlock are listed as WR/KR, but do those guys elicit any confidence?
I hate to do it, but until proven otherwise, this one gets a no.
13. Does your team have a special-teams linebacker that leads the specials and can play inside linebacker in a pinch?
In recent history the Bears have always placed a premium on having that one linebacker that would be a core special teamer. From Brendon Ayanbadejo to Tim Shaw to Blake Costanzo, and to the latest free agent signeee. Jordan Senn. Senn is an experienced special teamer with seven seasons under his belt. He has also played both inside and outside linebacker, although he's probably best suited for OLB. With a couple other young linebackers getting reps in the middle for the Bears, I think I can check this one off as a yes.
That's eight questions receiving a yes, and five receiving a no from me.
How do you have it?