Both Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach commanded the middle in Urlacher's stead, with Hillenmeyer proving to be a better option because of his overall knowledge of the scheme, but No. 54 is simply an irreplaceable piece of the puzzle – even if he's not the one-man wrecking crew he used to be. Making matters worse, free-agent addition Pisa Tinoisamoa, who looked to be a perfect fit on the strong side, was also hurt in the season opener and only suited up for one more game before his own transfer to IR. While Lance Briggs was his usual brilliant self on the weak side and earned his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl berth, not having Urlacher and Tinoisamoa on the field with him turned out to be devastating.
Briggs, Urlacher and Tinoisamoa had the makings of perhaps the best trio of 4-3 LBs in the league, yet they lined up together for less than one full series.
Inside the Numbers
Since Tinoisamoa only came to the Windy City on a one-year deal and didn't have an opportunity to do much during that year, it remains to be seen if he will be re-signed for 2010. If the Bears choose to spend their money in other places, then Roach may have to bulk up a bit in the offseason if he wants to be the best strong-side linebacker he can be. Williams is growing impatient and knows he should be a starter in this league by now, but unless there is a new collective bargaining agreement in place by March, he will be a restricted free agent as opposed to unrestricted – Chicago might match any offer he gets to protect the depth chart.
We know Briggs is still going to be one of the best weak-side defenders in the NFL come next season, although, aside from that, we don't really know much about this group right now.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
2009 Position by Position Review: LB
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