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Pisa & strong side

Free-agent linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa finsihed a visit with Chicago on Wednesday. Tinoisamoa, who visited Buffalo last week, Both teams are looking at him as a strong-side linebacker, even though he spent most of his time with St. Louis on the weak side. Chicago has a viable strong-side starter in six-year veteran Hunter Hillenmeyer, a 238-pounder. But Hillenmeyer is recovering from sports hernia surgery. The Bills have been considering players to upgrade from incumbent strong-side starter Keith Ellison, but haven't found an option to their liking yet. Tinoisamoa is a proven player, having started for six seasons for the Rams. But he played last year at 220 pounds. He felt more comfortable at the lighter weight - about 20 pounds less than his listed 240. He felt he was in better shape at 220, which he believed helped him avoid injuries that hindered him in 2006 and 2007. Ellison is 229 pounds. Bills weakside linebacker Kawika Mitchell is 253. He's capable of playing the strong side. But the Bills do not really want to move him from the weak side, where he's most familiar and most comfortable. From Tinoisamoa's perspective, he probably has to figure his odds of winning a starting job are better in Buffalo, presuming Hillenmeyer returns to full health by training camp. From the Bills' perspective, the team must determine how much of an upgrade Tinoisamoa is - if any - playing on the strong side. The Rams saved money by cutting Tinoisamoa. But this cut smacks of the "new broom sweeps clean" approach that exists on virtually every NFL team when a new coach takes over. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo ideally wants bigger linebackers. But they cut Tinoisamoa even before watching him on the field in any practices. Spagnuolo has a mandate to make changes. The Rams' run defense rankings the last six years, working backward, are: 29, 20, 31, 28, 29, 20.

--Mark Gaughan


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