If the acquisition of Brandon Marshall for a couple of silly third-round draft picks were the only move of Phil Emery’s first off-season as General Manager of the Chicago Bears, the off-season would have to be considered a success. Marshall is not only having the best season in the history of Bears wide receivers. He is having one of the great offensive seasons in the organization’s history…period. And if the Bears can ever give the quarterback a few seconds to look down field, Marshall’s numbers will have nowhere to go but up.
But Emery was also applauded for adding depth to the Bears roster in positions that had been somewhat neglected in recent years by the Angelo administration. He allowed Corey Graham to walk out the door but compensated for that loss by adding Blake Costanzo for special teams tackles and Kelvin Hayden for a veteran presence at corner. Knowing his linebackers were not the springiest of chickens, Emery brought in Geno Hayes – a well-regarded underperformer who would serve as a fourth outfielder of sorts for a unit sporting a pair of superstars. And while the Bears had utilized Danieal Manning and Earl Bennett in the past to step in for Devin Hester on returns, Emery collected Eric Weems – a terrific return man in Atlanta – to add a spark and another body on the receiving corps.
Now with five days until a pivotal division tilt with the Minnesota Vikings, Hayden, Hayes and Weems are all preparing to play starting/pivotal roles.
The Bears can not lean on the injury excuse should they fail over these final four days of the 2012 regular season. Losing Brian Urlacher or Tim Jennings or Devin Hester or Earl Bennett are not valid enough reasons for this campaign to be calebhanied into a redundantly painful death. Losing Jay Cutler is an excuse. Losing Brandon Marshall – 88% of their current offense – would be an excuse. And after watching him dominate Sunday I’m not sure losing Henry Melton would not be a a deathblow to the entirety of this defensive unit. But those three men will be on the field Sunday in Minnesota and most likely for the remainder of the year.
Emery has only had one off-season, it’s true, and this season won’t fall on him should the Bears fail to make the tournament. But the GM’s ability as a talent evaluator will face scrutiny if players like Hayden, Hayes and Weems fail to produce down the stretch. And Emery’s draft picks – especially McClellin, Rodriguez and Jeffery – will be pivotal in solidifying a roster than seems to be falling faster than the Yanks and Rebs at Gettysburg.
Championships are not won with roster depth. Teams need their stars to perform and perform well in the postseason if they want to be crowned Super Bowl champion. But seasons ARE survived with depth and the Bears may soon find themselves in need of survival. Will Emery’s added talent be able to deliver? It is the question of December and its answer may determine whether the Bears are relevant in January.