The Bears obviously weren't sold on Jon Bostic as a Week 1 starter, as they plugged D.J. Williams back into the middle linebacker spot after the veteran missed the preseason due to a calf injury. But the merry-go-round of injuries in the Bears front seven kept on spinning last Thursday, putting D.J. Williams out for the season and bringing Bostic around to take his place.
Bostic's head must have been spinning as well, as the rookie seemed lost at times in his first quarter and a half of action on defense. But while he was making all the rookie mistakes you might expect out of someone called into action on a moment's notice, Bostic also showed flashes of the ability that shined during his heavy preseason playing time.
The biggest knock on Bostic is that he simply wasn't ready to handle the pass coverage duties required of a Tampa Two linebacker, but the linebacker was able to take care of business in coverage at times. On this first play, Bostic looked like everything you would hope for. It's about as simple of a coverage as you can get: the tight end releases on a straight go route down the right hash, and Bostic gets into a very nice backpedal, locks up the tight end, and gets his head around in time to see the pass sail towards the near sideline.
The impressive part - and that part that wouldn't fit in a GIF - is that Bostic forced Hakeem Nicks out of bounds after the WR broke past a poor tackle attempt by Zack Bowman. Bostic's speed in the open field proved once again to be his greatest asset on this one, both before and after the pass.
Bostic's ability to run with the best of them is without question, but he'll need to be hitting the film room and the playbook before he can fully harness that speed in pass defense. On this next one, Bostic was more than a little lucky that his mistake didn't cost the team big. The Giants had a pretty good Cover Two beater called from the huddle, with the tight end and slot receiver working opposite edges of the middle zone.
Bostic must have misread his keys or gotten confused on his assignment, because Bostic ended up running into nickel Isiah Frey while the TE ran free into a huge hole in the middle of the zone. Thankfully there was enough pressure in Manning's face that the QB went to his check down option, because this one could have easily gone for a touchdown if Manning saw his tight end waving to him at the 20 with only a safety to beat.
Even if Bostic proves to be a liability in pass coverage this Sunday, he does bring one other asset to the field besides his athleticism, something this defense has been sorely lacking as of late: a big ol' nasty streak when it comes to tackling. On this last play, Bostic reads the power run that the Giants tried to set up to the right of the formation, and puts himself into the perfect position to blow up the play.
Brandon Jacobs sees that the point of attack is well defended by Bostic and James Anderson, and wisely cuts the run inside. But just when Major Wright looked to be having trouble finishing off Jacobs for a short gain, Bostic came in and laid in the wood. If Bostic can help get this defense back to making tackles the first time - and playing with the fire we've come to expect from a Bears defense - I'm willing to accept the occasional blown coverage.
Bostic's transition into full-time action is bound to have bumps along the way, but playing the Redskins should be a perfect chance for the linebacker to set a tone for the rest of his season. With his college experience defending the read option - and speed enough to go stride for stride with Robert Griffin III and his running backs - Bostic should be able to hold his own in the run game. will probably challenge Bostic to show equal aptitude in pass coverage, but hopefully Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker will be wise enough to minimize the rookie's exposure by pulling him for a nickel back in passing downs and mixing up the play calls enough to keep the Redskins guessing.
Will Bostic come out on Sunday looking like the second coming of Dick Butkus? No. But if the offense and special teams hold up their parts of the bargain, Bostic can get away with the occasional mistake and still help the Bears notch their fifth win in seven games.
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- Pleased to Meet You: Week 7, Washington Redskins
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