After we broke down the competition at strong-side linebacker between Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach this morning, we got an e-mail from Bill T., who suggested it was unfair to judge Hillenmeyer's numbers just based on statistics from the 2008 season.
We did disclose at the beginning of the breakdown that we were working with a small sample size. Hillenmeyer was inactive for three games last season, missing two following hand surgery in the middle of the season, and sitting out the finale with what is believed to have been an ankle injury. He made six starts before Roach was promoted ahead of him.
The veteran Hillenmeyer, who is signed for three more seasons, is scheduled to earn $1.5 million this season. His cap number is only $1.55 million because the Bears put his bonus money in a roster bonus when they signed him to a five-year extension in 2006.
Here is how we broke it down earlier today
2008 playing time breakdown
Hunter Hillenmeyer--269 of 1,111 snaps, 24.2 percent
23 tackles, 10 solos, 1 sack, 2 pass defended
Nick Roach--431 of 1,111 snaps, 38.8 percent
40 tackles, 25 solos, 2 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit, 1 pass defended
The sample size is not the best to evaluate, and Hillenmeyer was dealing with injuries last season, but the numbers suggest Roach has the ability to make more plays on his own. While Roach made a tackle every 10.8 plays, Hillenmeyer had one every 11.7 plays. There's a broader difference when you look at solo tackles. Roach had 2.5 times as many with a solo every 17 plays. Hillenmeyer made one every 27 plays. Roach has better range and that could explain why. But don't forget the team called Hillenmeyer, who turns 29 this season, it's most "assignment sound" defender not long ago.
Now, let's take a look at the numbers Hillenmeyer posted in 2007:
Hunter Hillenmeyer--745 of 1,076 snaps, 69.2 percent
101 tackles, 60 solos, 3 tackles for loss, 5 QB hits, 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
That means he had a tackle every 7.4 plays and a solo every 12.4 plays. Certainly that is more production. Keep in mind tackle statistics are subjective and a lot more goes into a play than just who gets the tackle. We hope that sheds some more light on the issue.
Of course, if the Bears are successful in their bid to land free agent Pisa Tinoisamoa, this could all be a moot point. Tinoisamoa declined to comment when asked about the Bears as he walked off the practice field. He left Halas Hall in the mid-afternoon and did undergo a physical. He is expected to visit Philadelphia in the near future.