No, the answer is not "a good offense," though Ensco International's (NYSE:ESV) got that as well. Instead, look to the balance sheet of this drilling company.

At year's end, the company sported a cash position that exceeded debt by about $500 million. Throw in a $350 million revolving line of credit that hasn't been used, and this is one liquid driller.

It won't have the smoothest of sailing this year. Ensco candidly pointed out that some of its jack-up rigs, particularly in the Asia/Middle East market, are likely to fall idle for some part of the year. That's inevitable, given the new wave of uncontracted newbuilds combined with the implosion of overleveraged independent exploration and production companies. Also, as we saw with Transocean (NYSE:RIG), Ensco has had to take some bad debt charges connected to PdVSA and other cash-challenged clients.

On balance, though, the situation looks pretty comfortable for Ensco. The new Ensco 8500 rig goes to work for Anadarko (NYSE:APC) and Eni in the spring, and the Ensco 8501 will be delivered later in the year. The Ensco 7500 is also repricing significantly higher in its upcoming drilling date for Chevron (NYSE:CVX). Ensco's $4 billion backlog is intact, with around $1.7 billion of that coming out in 2009, comfortably supporting the company's ongoing deepwater fleet buildout. Capital spending will total around $740 million this year, slightly less than the company incurred last year.

Ensco still has more than two years before its first uncontracted rig hits the water, and it has good reason to expect adequate demand, given recent exploratory and appraisal successes by the likes of CNOOC (NYSE:CEO) and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) in the world's frontier deepwater basins -- not to mention the desperation driving Pemex.

Finally, Ensco's statement that it plans to "aggressively manage costs to protect margins" carries a lot of weight, given the company's track record in this regard. Along with Noble (NYSE:NE), Ensco remains one of my go-to offshore drillers.

CNOOC is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. Dive deep into any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.