Tinoisamoa Back Means LB Shuffling

We know that Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are going to be starting for the Chicago Bears. But now that Pisa Tinoisamoa is back in the fold, what does this mean for the depth chart at linebacker?

Pisa Tinoisamoa

Signed this past offseason to be an upgrade at strong-side linebacker, Tinoisamoa didn't expect to be handed a starting job but earned it after looking fantastic in training camp and the preseason. But a pair of knee injuries limited him only to parts of two games, eventually landing on injured reserve and requiring surgery in October. The former Ram said following the season he wanted to stay in the Windy City, and after not generating very much interest on the open market in free agency, the eighth-year veteran was re-signed Monday to another one-year deal.

Status Update: Since Tinoisamoa beat out the competition last season to earn the starting nod and his knee injury wasn't considered serious, Bears fans can assume he'll line up alongside Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs again come Week 1.

Nick Roach

Starting at both middle and strong-side linebacker this past season, Roach settled in on the strong side because he had problems calling plays in the huddle and making adjustments at the line of scrimmage when in the middle. In all honesty, his best position is probably weak-side linebacker since that would allow him to flow to the football and not have to shed as many blockers, but Briggs isn't going anywhere any time soon. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub has always been high on the former Northwestern Wildcat as a coverage guy, although he didn't get to use him very much in 2009 because he was needed on defense with all the injuries.

Status Update: While he will surely give Tinoisamoa a run for his money, Roach may have to be happy with reserve status and an increased role on Toub's special teams.

Hunter Hillenmeyer

Unsure if he would even make the team when he reported to training camp in July, Hillenmeyer had arguably his best season in a Bears uniform once he finally took over at middle linebacker for the out-for-the-year Urlacher. The coaching staff liked Roach's athleticism roaming from sideline to sideline, but once he proved he wasn't up to being a vocal leader before the snap, Hillenmeyer got the call and did the job admirably. Although he wasn't given much of a reward this offseason, as Roach was offered a second-round tender as a restricted free agent and now Tinoisamoa is back.

LB Hunter Hillenmeyer
AP Images: Nam Y. Huh

Status Update: The Bears have already shown they are OK with casting aside likable veterans, and with Hillenmeyer scheduled to make $1.7 million in 2010 but not expected to start, his roster spot is anything but secure.

Jamar Williams

It's hard to believe Williams has already been in Chicago for four years, but the fifth-round draft pick in 2006 has still only made two starts in a Bears uniform and finally seems to be growing frustrated with his limited role on D. Subbing for an injured Briggs in Week 14, he recorded an impressive 18 tackles, knocked down two passes and no doubt looked like he belonged in the starting lineup. Skilled enough to be a competent backup at all three linebacker spots, he also continues to be a sound special teamer.

Status Update: Williams is more valuable than Hillenmeyer because he is younger, can play more positions and stands out on the coverage units, and since no team has made an effort to sign him as a restricted free agent, nothing has changed.

Tim Shaw

Released after the preseason by the Jaguars, Shaw only came to the Bears because both Urlacher and Tinoisamoa went down for the count in the opener at Green Bay. However, the former Penn State Nittany Lion turned out to be a revelation on special teams, setting a club record with 30 special-teams tackles and earning a spot on USA Today's All-Joe Team, which honors the league's unsung and underrated performers. Although he is no threat to challenge for playing time on defense, he has the makings of another Brendon Ayanbadejo and might make the Pro Bowl.

Status Update: Yet another no-name backup Toub has spun from straw into gold, an argument can be made for Shaw as special-teams captain in 2010.

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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.

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