Bears Set at Middle Linebacker

No Urlacher? No Hillenmeyer? No problem.

By Eamonn Brennan
|  Wednesday, Sep 30, 2009  |  Updated 2:14 PM CDT
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First it was Brian Urlacher. Then it was Hunter Hillenmeyer. Now, Nick Roach takes over middle linebacker duties. Is there anyone the Bears haven't played at the position?

Injuries have decimated the Bears' middle linebacker spot. Urlacher is lost for the year to a dislocated wrist. Hunter Hillenmeyer filled in admirably in the Bears' win over the Steelers before falling prey to his own injury, a bruised rib he suffered in the second quarter of Sunday's win over Seattle.

Into that twice-over gap stepped backup Nick Roach, and he didn't miss a step. Frankly, he may have gained one, and his play has local writers lobbying for him to keep the middle linebacker gig even when Hillenmeyer returns from injury.

The case is most clearly made by ESPN Chicago's Jeff Dickerson, who argues that Roach's speed is more than enough to overcome whatever intuitive abilities Hillenmeyer has:

For all the positive attributes Hillenmeyer brings to the table, there is simply no comparison when it comes to speed: Roach has it, and Hillenmeyer doesn't have enough of it. One of Hillenmeyer's biggest strengths is his knowledge of the position. He knows exactly where he's supposed to be on every play. But the same can be said for Roach, who worked at middle linebacker last year before a different injury to Hillenmeyer forced Roach to slide over to the strong side, Jeff Dickerson writes.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei did his usual postgame film breakdown and saw really good things from Roach:

Roach was all over the field, getting off blocks, hitting hard, wrapping up and playing pass defense. He almost had a safety on Wallace but instead forced him to throw an interception to Lance Briggs, Pompei writes.

Put it all together, and what Bears fans get is a win-win situation. Hillenmeyer has proven capable. Roach is an exciting prospect. Suddenly the dread we all felt after losing Brian Urlacher in Week One's awful Packers loss ... well, it doesn't feel so dreadful anymore, does it?

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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