Hunter Hillenmeyer has never been on the level of either Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs as a linebacker. He hasn’t even put together back to back seasons of 60 tackles or more. He’s never been a pass rusher, never been much of a play maker.
One could argue that he’s only out there to eat space on that side of the field. Thing is Hillenmeyer has done enough things at the right points in the game throughout his career to be a starter.
He’s made some good plays in pass coverage in his career, and when teams have tended to run away from Briggs and Urlacher he has been there to make the play.
He is a cog in a defense that has ranked near the top of the league for the past half decade. So his value in that sense can’t be undermined.
At some point though, someone who can make more plays at a more consistent level is going to take his spot on the roster.
Last year Hillenmeyer never regained his starting spot after an injury allowed rookie Nick Roach to play well enough to not lose the spot. Which doesn’t really mean much because Roach himself didn’t play at a very high level either.
Truth be told though the strong-side linebacker in the Cover-2 defense is on the low end of the importance of production in this particular scheme.
The reasons being the front four is counted on to provide the pass rush, the weak-side linebacker has a bigger area of responsibility in coverage. Thus mitigating a lot of what you expect the strong-side linebacker to do.
This would explain why the Bears did not do a lot to bring in a high level of competition for Hillenmeyer. Roach is an undrafted free agent selection, after Roach it’s more of the same undrated free agents who you hope can develop into a decent player.
It’s not a necessity though so it’s possible that Hillenmeyer’s role on the teams is safe for now.