The 2014 Chicago Bears season will likely ride on the improvement of the defense. The offense proved itself last season, the first under guru Marc Trestman, and is expected to pick up where it left off and continue to improve.
The defense is where the biggest problems were last season, as the unit surrendered nearly 30 points per game and over 160 yards rushing per game. Some positions were bigger problems than others but, as a whole, the defense failed and is what held the team back most when the playoffs were on the line.
My first pick to improve in 2014 is Jon Bostic. Bostic, who earned the nickname "Boom" with his highlight hits in the preseason last year, did not make the impact that the Bears had hoped when he was drafted in the second round last spring.
Bostic struggled at times in coverage and, like all the linebackers, against the run and especially in play action.
Bostic appeared in all 16 games, starting nine, and tallied 45 tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery and one interception. He was drafted to be an heir to the linebacker throne and, while there were flashes of that last year, he was unable to show it consistently.
However, one year later he appears ready to burst through and take the next step.
It's been noted throughout the spring that Bostic feels more comfortable heading into his second season.
"A lot of the changes that we did make, it’s a lot more natural for me.
"I can play how I’ve been taught literally from little league to high school to college to now. It’s back to playing how I used to.
‘‘There were a lot of things that we did last year that worked, but now we changed a couple of those things, and it’s more natural."
Bostic has been seeing reps at middle and outside linebacker and, while it is an open competition for who will play next to Lance Briggs most seem to believe that Bostic will slot in at the strongside position next to Briggs and D.J. Williams, who will win the middle spot.
Bostic, like many rookies, struggled with the adjustment to the pro game and, while he possesses many of the traits to succeed in the NFL, he wasn't able to translate those to the field. After his first season hopefully he has caught up to the speed of the NFL and will be able to read and react more, rather than playing half a step behind every one else.
It will definitely be a position battle worth watching later this month.
Do you think Bostic can take the next step this year?