Teams don’t win without depth

Oct 18, 2005 5:48 AM

There have been all kinds of changes for the Houston Texans this season. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer was fired after two games because that unit was stuck in first gear and its franchise QB David Carr was getting killed.

Offensive line coach Joe Pendry has stepped in as the new coordinator. Coaching is an important part of success in football, but good players are even more important. A coach needs talent on the field to work with.

As a rookie, Carr was sacked an NFL record 76 times. He was sacked 49 times last season, and a league high 27 in just four games in 2005. Philadelphia holds the league record for most sacks allowed in a season (104) back in 1986. Last week, Head Coach Dom Capers made changes to the offensive line in an attempt to fix this glaring problem.

The Texans are on pace to allow an NFL-record 108 sacks and is a great example of how important depth is. Teams have a plan in preseason, but when things don’t work out, it’s important for organizations to have options to try and address problems. Stockpiling depth is one way to deal with those needs.

Of course, injuries are the main reason depth is considered one of the most important components of football: The hurts are commonplace. Naturally, the most important position is quarterback and this season has already seen a remarkable amount of changes.

Last week Pittsburgh’s young QB Ben Roethlisberger was hurt late in the 24-22 Monday night win at San Diego. Backup QB Tommy Maddox was already out with an injury, so the team had to turn to third-stringer Charlie Batch in the final minute.

The New York Jets have been the poster-child for the importance of QB depth. Chad Pennington admitted in preseason that, following shoulder surgery,t he was 85 percent, He hoped to be 100 by opening day. Well he wasn’t. The same week he went down with a season-ending injury, so did backup QB Jay Fiedler.

In one terrible day the Jets were down to untested Brooks Bollinger, so they raced to the scrap heap to bring in veteran Vinny Testaverde. The Jets were actually prepared in case Pennington wasn’t healthy (with Fiedler), but bad luck and the violent world of NFL injuries changed everything. It’s no surprise the Jets started 4-1 "under" the total.

Reliable skill position depth is also critical. The rebuilding Cleveland Browns brought in rookie wide receiver Braylon Edwards to help an offense that was 28th in the NFL in 2004. However, he has an infection in his right arm that required hospitalization the same time RB Lee Suggs broke his right thumb. Both are expected to miss a month. That was one reason the Browns brought in RB Reuben Droughns from Denver. You can never have enough depth, though the speedy Edwards won’t be as easily replaced.

Good NFL coaches and general managers actually anticipate injuries and construct their teams in the offseason with an eye toward depth. The New Orleans Saints have had enough problems, playing primarily road games after relocating temporarily to San Antonio. It didn’t help this struggling team to lose workhorse RB Deuce McAllister last week. At the time of the season-ending injury, McAllister was tops on the team in rushing and second in receptions. Lacking quality options, the Saints were forced to trade for Jesse Chatman from the Dolphins. Unfortunately, he can’t play defense. The porous defense allows 35 points per game on the road, where the Saints are 1-2 ATS.

Atlanta has interesting QB depth. Michael Vick is a deadly runner and combined with RBs Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett, the Falcons lead the NFL in rushing for the second year in a row. Yet QB Matt Schaub, a poised, accurate passer at Virginia, stepped in when Vick missed the New England game and threw for 298 yards, 3 TDs, no interceptions. The Falcons prefer the dynamic Vick, of course, but have the flexibility and depth to throw the ball more with Schaub.