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Old 05-23-2007, 11:52 PM   #1
tony hipchest
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Default You gotta go deep in this league

another great article by kirwan explains perfectly why the steelers will not cut all their depth just to resign 1 player (faneca)
By Pat Kirwan Senior Analyst
(May 23, 2007) -- NFL teams have May thru July to fortify the back end of their rosters, and there's no time to lose. As any NFL fan knows, the 16-game season is a war of attrition. It doesn't take long for teams to call on their roster depth to move forward. Where would the Eagles have been in 2006 if Jeff Garcia wasn't on the roster? Garcia, a former starting QB who bounced around the league in recent years, was grabbed up by a smart Philadelphia franchise and he was good enough to keep the team on its winning path.

The Broncos can weather injuries at tight end, thanks to Stephen Alexander.
The Eagles had one of my very best preseason depth charts headed into 2006 and will be good again in 2007. On the other hand, for a number of teams the depth on the roster isn't good enough to keep the winning going when a few choice starters go down with injury. Which clubs lead the way in the roster depth issue? Well, a list of critical questions should lead you to understand if your favorite team is ready for the injuries and holdouts that will start to mount up during organized team activities. For example, the Broncos lost second-year tight end Tony Scheffler for a few months with a broken foot, but their roster depth with Daniel Graham and Stephen Alexander makes the loss less significant than it could have been.

You would hope your team has an answer for all of these questions, but not even the best teams can check off all of the critical components to the depth issue. Keep in mind these players need the experience, talent or both to perform without a lot of practice time until they are called upon. (There's a 2006 example behind each depth question).

1. An experienced backup quarterback who can win more than half the games he may have to start. (Jeff Garcia)
2. A running back who can come off the bench and deliver 1,000 yards. (Ladell Betts)
3. A third wide receiver who can step up to a starter's spot and deliver five to six receptions a game. (Reche Caldwell)
4. A swing tackle who can stop a pass rush on either the left or right side. (Roman Oben )
5. An inside lineman who can play center or guard ... or at least give the line coach the flexibility to change the combination inside. (Floyd Womack)
6. A second tight end who does not reduce the offensive package. (Stephen Alexander)

1. A third defensive end who can rush the passer. (Trent Cole)
2. A third defensive tackle who can create a rotation inside to keep the D-line fresh. (Alfonso Boone)
3. At least two backup linebackers with big contributions on special teams. (Larry Izzo )
4. A third corner to build a nickel defense and start when needed. (Philip Buchanon)
5. A third safety to build a dime defense and be versatile enough to play strong or free safety in a pinch. (Chris Harris )

When I look at roster depth, I start with the backup quarterback before any other position. With that in mind, only half the league really has a backup QB with a chance to keep the winning happening. After one question, the league is cut in half. For example, the Colts and Patriots would really struggle if they lost their franchise signal-callers. Neither team has a "Jeff Garcia" backing up the starter.

After the quarterback issue is solved, it's on to backup running back. Is there a 1,000-yard rusher on the bench waiting to take over? Ladell Betts did it for Washington and it looks like Michael Turner would keep the Chargers rolling along -- which is the reason A.J. Smith kept him even though some team apparently offered a first-round pick for him. After the running back question, the depth issue reduced the league to 11 teams.

The Redskins have some outstanding depth at running back with Ladell Betts.
A swing offensive tackle, a guard/center, a third wide receiver, and a second tight end are all required offensive players for any team thinking about playing meaningful games in December and January. The Eagles, Bears, Redskins and Rams look pretty good when the offensive questions are asked and answered.

After the offensive depth is addressed, it's on to the defense where team need a third defensive end with specialty pass rush skills, a third defensive tackle to keep the rotation going, two backup linebackers who are core players on special teams, a nickel corner and a dime safety. Naturally, some teams look better prepared to withstand the rigors of an NFL season if the defensive depth is challenged

Once again, the Eagles are high on the list and are joined by the Cowboys, Buccaneers, Steelers and Patriots. Philadelphia still has depth questions on the back end of its defense, but look at this list of nonstarters on its roster: Quarterbacks Kelly Holcomb and A.J. Feeley; running backs Correll Buckhalter and Tony Hunt, tight end Matt Schobel; offensive tackle Winston Justice; guard Max Jean-Gilles; and wide receiver Greg Lewis. That is quality depth.

A team like the Redskins may be sitting in the middle of the pack in the NFC, but if injuries become a critical factor around the league, Washington has a very good chance of surviving. Quarterback Mark Brunell, running back Ladell Betts, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, offensive tackle Jason Fabini, guard/center Ross Tucker, defensive end Renaldo Wynn, defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, cornerback Fred Smoot, safety Pierson Prioleau and linebacker Lemar Marshall make up an impressive group of nonstarters on the team's roster.
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