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The Chicago Bears should start D.J. Williams at middle linebacker

Veteran linebacker D.J. Williams missed all of preseason for the Chicago Bears, while rookie Jon Bostic filled in, and the rookie looked impressive at times. But he also struggled playing pass defense. This is a passing league, so it makes sense to start the better pass defender. Right?


After collecting a pick six in the preseason opener against the Panthers, Jon Bostic found his notoriety grow in Chicago. Then after making The Hit of the preseason against the Chargers, Bostic started making waves on a national level. After collecting a game high eight tackles against the Raiders, many Bears fans were ready to call him the heir apparent to the middle linebacking legacy in Chicago. He went from being Jonathan Bostic, 2nd rounder from Florida, to Mr. Boom-Bostic and The Boomstic.

While it would make for a great story-line, "Rookie MLB Bostic Filling Urlacher's Shoes", the kid simply isn't ready.

The right move for Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman is to start the veteran D.J. Williams, because he is a more accomplished NFL defender at this point in his career. The majority of mistakes made by Bostic during preseason was in pass coverage. Not getting the correct depth in his zones, turning the wrong way, biting on play action...

It's understandable that Bostic would struggle as a rookie in these areas, and it makes sense to start Williams.

The Chicago Tribune's David Haugh took the Bears to task for not starting the rookie at middle linebacker. He's taking Phil Emery's philosophy on wanting to build the Bears with homegrown talent, and not looking at the big picture of this Bears team. Haugh is trying to take a few quotes out of context to prove his point.

This isn't a rebuilding team, solely looking towards the future. This is a veteran team that is infusing some young talent on the roster, while contending for a playoff spot and a championship.

Haugh, you, or I, may not believe the Bears are a Super Bowl contender, but the Bears organization does. While I'm all for a team that's out of contention to go young, it's not fair to open the season with rookies playing major roles, if there are better options available.

It's not fair to Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, or to Lance Briggs to allow a rookie to learn on the job. Bostic may end up starting at some point this year, but now is not his time.

The 2013 Chicago Bears are not the 2013 Chicago Cubs. This isn't a rebuilding team, this is a team in a win now mode. If they are 4-8, then go young, but not now. Start the better player.

Haugh is also encouraging fans to ask Phil Emery why he would, "allow middle linebacker D.J. Williams to replace Jon Bostic on the starting defense?"

Is Haugh not familiar with how football teams work? The head coach names his starters. I'm sure Emery would love it if every one of his draft picks went into camp and won a starting job, but that's just not realistic. The head coach will play who he sees fit, and make changes when appropriate.

Phil Emery and to an extent, Marc Trestman, brought in the veteran Williams as a one year bridge to which ever rookie they drafted. Once Bostic was picked, the plan was in place. Bring him along with some defensive reps here and there, and let him contribute on special teams. Williams' calf injury afforded the Bears the chance to take a longer look at the rookie, and even though they liked his promise, the plan remained in place.

We know Emery uses not only his scouting staff to grade players, but he also subscribes to the sabermetric analytic companies like Pro Football Focus. So we'll bring you some PFF grades from time to time as a tool, to see some of what the Bears are looking at.

So how did Bostic fare in pass coverage accoring to PFF? His week one performance that featured his pick 6 garnered him a +2.2. Week 2 he was +0.2, and week 3 he fell to -0.3, for a three game total of +2.1. Quarterbacks completed 3 of 4 passes against his coverage. It's a small sample size, but during the game telecasts, the analysts were pointing out his coverage hiccups too.

D.J. Williams played sparingly in 2012, but his PFF grades do go back to 2008. In '08 he had a +6.6 in pass coverage. The following season the Broncos went from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense and Williams' pass coverage grade slipped to -8.2. Denver remained in a 3-4 in 2010, and his pass coverage grade improved to a +3.9. They went back to a 4-3 defense in 2011, and Williams graded at +4.1, then in 2012 his pass coverage grade was +3.1.

Williams may not be a stellar pass defender like Brian Urlacher was, but it's important that the mike backer in the Bears scheme at least get to the correct landmarks in coverage. There's more of a trust factor with the 10 year veteran, than there is with the rookie. There's not much the Bengals will do offensively that Williams hasn't seen.

The Bears expect to spend plenty of time in nickle defense on Sunday, so whomever is in at MLB will probably come off the field anyway, Bostic due to his inexperience, and Williams due to his conditioning. Lance Briggs and James Anderson are more than capable to be the two linebackers on the field during nickle.

I have no doubt that the Bears believe Jon Bostic to be the future at middle linebacker, but right now, with this team, play the better player.

Who do you think the Bears should start at middle linebacker?

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