I had the great opportunity this past week to host a few shows with former NFL scout, coach, and executive Pat Kirwin on SiriusXM NFL Radio. It was a fact finding mission identifying which NFL teams have done the best job building up their roster to survive injury during the season. The Bears made our list with criteria diagnosed with Pats years of experience and a template most NFL General Managers follow for success.
Keep in mind the 2011 Bears season spiraled out of control due to quarterback Jay Cutlers injury at the most critical position on the field. I encourage CSNChicago.com readers to check out Pat Kirwins article at CBSSports.com. Pat breaks down his favorite roster builders this season. I briefly summarized the criteria below with comments how the Bears have addressed each:
1. Have backup quarterback who can go 2-2 if they had to play a month of the season.
The Bears have done just that with the signing of Jason Campbell who comes with wins and quality starting experience.
2. Have a second running back who can be a 1,000 yard back or at minimum generate 75 yards a week as runner or receiver.
The signing of talented runner Michael Bush will pay huge dividends for the Bears in 2012. Phil Emerys work may not be done if Matt Forte elects not to report for training camp. If Bush or Khalil Bell were to go down in pre-season with an injury, it could have disastrous consequences. Emery, most likely, has done his homework on experienced free agent RBs if one needs to be signed before camp. It will be done quickly, only if Forte withholds his services.
3. Have third wide receiver who can play if a starter goes down, who must average 4-6 receptions a week as an X (weak side receiver) or Z (strong side receiver).
The Bears may be featuring their most talented group of receivers in quite some time. Brandon Marshall can play X or Z and so can Earl Bennett. If either goes down to injury, rookie Alshon Jeffery would become the X and either of the aforementioned, moves to Z. Devin Hester becomes the slot in this scenario, plus the Bears also signed Devin Thomas who is a Z if they elect to keep Bennett in the slot where he has thrived in three WR sets. Chicago now has incredible depth at wideout.
4. Have second TE whos a legitimate threat as a blocker and receiver.
Finally, the Bears will be utilizing the talent at this position. Kellen Davis is very athletic at 67, 267 lbs. Second year tight end Kyle Adams looks the part, but inexperienced. Rookie draft pick Evan Rodriguez is more of a FBH-back type of player, not a true tight end, but is definitely a threat to catch the football.
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.
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.
7. Have a pass-rush specialist.
Julius Peppers is the guy, but a pass rusher opposite could reap the rewards of a ton of slide protection to Peppers side. The Bears believe first-round draft pick Shea McClellin is the guy. Also, Corey Wooten needs to come on strong because if both fail, Izzy will be kicking back up to defensive end.
8. Have a fourth cornerback if either starter at right, left, or nickel corner were to go down with an injury.
Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and DJ Moore have all been solid. Free agent Kelvin Hayden comes with a ton of experience during his days as a Colt in the exact same defense as the Bears. If Hayden performs even remotely as good as Jennings has, the Bears hit pay dirt again.
9. Have a third safety.
This position has been the Achilles' heel for the Bears for quite some time. Next on stage is rookie Brandin Hardin if Major Wright or Chris Conte get injured or falter. Love Craig Steltzs heart, but he is limited. This group has to grow up quick.
10. Have four core special teams players be able to fill in if starter goes down on offense or defense during a game.
Thomas, Hayden, linebacker Geno Hayes and Rachal all fit the bill as does Davis.
The Bears have met all criteria, but need No. 4 and No. 9 to come around and finally develop. The defense just needs to be the typical Bears defense. The special teams need to be who they always have been. The offensive accountability Mike Tice is shaping needs to take hold during the end of training camp and the first three weeks of the season. If this happens, the Bears can sustain and remain consistent through injury.