No NFL organization is as revered for its long line of prolific middle linebackers as the Chicago Bears. From Bill George to Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary to Brian Urlacher, Chicago has almost always had a Hall of Fame linebacker patrolling the heart of the defense.
Yet Emery had no intention of thrusting Bostic into the starting role his rookie season. Instead, the plan was to let the youngster learn behind 10-year veteran D.J. Williams, who was signed as a free agent to a one-year deal this offseason.
That process now speeds up for Bostic with the news that Williams is done for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
"I've just got to get back in the playbook and be sure I'm 100 percent on everything," Bostic said after last night's game. "During the regular season, [as a backup] you don't have as many reps as you do in camp. It's a lot of watching. I never know who is going to go down. Anybody can go down at any given time, so you've got to be ready."
We'll quickly find out about Bostic's readiness, as he'll be the club's starting middle linebacker for the remainder of the campaign, beginning next week in Washington against the Redskins. Helping ease this transition is the experience Bostic received in training camp. Williams missed almost of all of camp and the entire preseason with a calf injury, so Bostic served as the club's starting MIKE. That time playing alongside Lance Briggs and James Anderson, learning their tendencies and how to function between two seasoned veterans, should do him well.
Having Briggs and Anderson by his side will be a big help for the rookie but the same can't be said about Chicago's defensive tackles. It's a position that has lost two of its top three players, Henry Melton and Nate Collins, to season-ending ACL injuries. Additionally, Stephen Paea is dealing with a lingering turf toe, which has held him out the past two weeks.
With those three out, Corey Wootton, a defensive end, and Landon Cohen, a journeyman who has played for eight different tams in six seasons, were the starters last night against the Giants. The result: 31-year-old Brandon Jacobs, running in an offense ranked dead last in the league in rushing, piled up 106 yards on the ground. If Jacobs and the Giants can have success running between the tackles, what are good teams, or even mediocre teams, going to do to Chicago's defense?
Bostic will play a large part in answering that question. He'll come off the field in nickel situations, so his main priority will be to stop the run. Last night, on Jacob's goal-line touchdown run, the lead blocker ate up Bostic at the point of attack, which isn't promising.
Yet in the preseason, Bostic showed a lot of potential. He's a smart, physical player who can lay the lumber. He can have an impact this season but there are going to be some serious growing pains along the way.
"I thought he was active [during the game]. He was around the football," head coach Marc Trestman said today. "He's going to get a lot of work on Monday and during the week. It's the next-man-up mentality and I think he's mentally ready to take on playing that position. The experience that he had will certainly help him down the road."
One things is for sure though: over the next 10 games, we'll find out of Bostic has what it takes to be the next in a long line of historic Bears middle linebackers.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.