Bears’ Nick Roach ready to be the man in the middle
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Twitter; @AdamJahns December 6, 2012 2:34PM
Updated: December 6, 2012 9:23PM
For Nick Roach, replacing Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker meant one additional duty Thursday at Halas Hall. The veteran had to stand at the podium in the media room and answer questions.
“This is my favorite part of the day,” Roach joked.
The integration process has begun for Roach, who will start at middle linebacker Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings with Urlacher out with a hamstring injury.
After starting the first 12 games on the strong side, Roach practiced at middle linebacker on Wednesday and Thursday. He’s making the calls and checks.
“On the outside, you really don’t have to begin any of the communications,” Roach said. “Playing in the middle you have to be the one to initiate all the checks and start all the adjustments and stuff like that.”
Roach has a soft-spoken demeanor and he admitted it’s been a focus of his to develop his communication skills on the field, especially if he’s in the middle.
“His voice has developed,” joked Lance Briggs, who will remain on the weak side. “I don’t know the right word, but it’s matured. He sounds louder on the field.”
“Lance is a funny guy,” Roach responded. “I try to make a conscious effort to get the communications clear so the guys can hear it.”
Roach said the biggest adjustment of moving into the middle is organizing the defense.
“It just all goes back to having to start all the calls,” Roach said. “So basically everybody on the defense starts with the ‘Mike’ [linebacker] letting everybody know something’s going to change once we get set or, in general, getting the call to the defense and everybody’s else’s job is just to echo.”
Roach filled in for an injured Urlacher in 2009, starting three games, and also started in the middle in the preseason. But his stint this season in the middle will likely be as long or longer.
“I feel good,” Roach said. “I wish that Brian was in there, obviously. It’s unfortunate to see him go down. But I’ve been prepared for it for awhile.”
Like in 2009, Roach expects Urlacher to be there on the sidelines if he needs assistance.
“Brian, he’s really good about being there and saying, ‘Hey if you see this, alert for something like that,’ ” Roach said. “He’s always kind of keeping that eyes-behind-your-head type of thing.”
Roach is probably the most underrated player on the Bears’ defense. There’s nothing flashy about him, but the Northwestern grad is a solid, steady performer. He’s made 43 tackles this season and has 1.5 sacks.
Being in the middle, Roach said he knows there will be more opportunities to make plays and tackles, especially with the Vikings expected to give the Bears a full dose of star running back Adrian Peterson.
“It will be different just because I’ll be in different spots,” Roach said. “We have different gaps depending on which linebacker spot that you’re lined up in. So the different types of tackles that you would be able to make at ‘Sam’ won’t come up at ‘Mike’ because you’re in a different position.
“In terms of stopping [Peterson], you’ve still got to get everybody to him to get him down.”