Nick Roach set to make first start of season
Roach set to replace Tinoisamoa in starting lineup
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – With Pisa Tinoisamoa ruled out of tonight’s game against the Dolphins with a sore knee, Nick Roach is expected to make his first start of the season at strongside linebacker.
“It’s just another chance to get out and play some defense,” Roach said Thursday. “It’s always fun to play defense.” Roach started 15 of 16 games played last season, registering a career-high 82 tackles and tying for the team lead with 10 tackles-for-loss. In the final 10 games, he recorded 41 tackles, six tackles for loss, one sack, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Roach battled Tinoisamoa for the starting job in training camp, but underwent minor surgery Aug. 24. The Northwestern product has played primarily on special teams this season.
“It’s obviously hard because everybody wants to play [defense],” Roach said. “But at the same time you have to realize that there is an important job on special teams to be done, so I’ve just been taking pride in that part of it and having fun with that too.”
Johnny on the spot: Johnny Knox has followed a breakout rookie year in 2009 with an even more productive second season. The speedy wide receiver from Abilene Christian has already established a career high with 617 yards receiving after compiling 527 last year.
“[He’s making] steady progress,” said offensive coordinator Mike Martz. “I think that Johnny doesn’t know how good he can be. He’s a special talent and he’s learning every day and getting better every day. The progress is remarkable. He gets better every week.”
This season, Knox has recorded the best five performances of his career in terms of yardage, topped by a 120-yard effort Oct. 17 against the Seattle Seahawks. In addition, four of his five longest receptions have come this year on catches of 67, 59, 35 and 32 yards.
Knox leads the Bears in receptions (32), yards and yards-per-catch average (19.3). He’s on pace to finish the season with 1,096 yards, which would enable him to become the first Bears player to reach the 1,000-yard plateau since 2002 when Marty Booker had 1,189 yards.
On the cusp: With four tackles against the Dolphins, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher will eclipse Mike Singletary’s Bears record for tackles. Tackles weren’t officially recorded by the team until 1971.
Urlacher currently has 1,484 career tackles and has led the Bears in that category seven times in 10 seasons. The 2000 first-round draft pick leads the team with 74 tackles this year.
“The guy is a great pro,” said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. “It’s not just numbers. I don’t think numbers define him as much as what he brings to the defense: leadership, toughness and consistency. He plays at such a high level.”
Better protection: The Bears have allowed only three sacks in their last two games after surrendering 23 in their previous four contests. It’s no coincidence that the pass protection has improved since Roberto Garza returned to the starting lineup two weeks ago at right guard.
“The offensive line deserves the credit really for all that,” Martz said. “They’ve done a remarkable job in the last few weeks. Having Garza back has had an impact on us too, and J’Marcus [Webb], he’s really playing well. He’s getting better every week. He’s going in the direction that we hoped he would be. He’s made progress and hopefully he’ll continue to do that.”