D.J. Williams had a rough go of it as a member of the Chicago Bears. Signed this offseason to a one-year deal, Williams missed all of the preseason with a calf injury and suffered a torn pectoral in last week's contest, which will keep him out for the remainder of the 2013 campaign.
The 10-year veteran was expected to be a placeholder this season, allowing second-round rookie Jon Bostic to learn from the sidelines. Williams landing on IR has sped up that process and, whether he's ready or not, Bostic is now the club's starting middle linebacker.
In our film analysis of the Bears' Week 6 run defense, we highlighted some of Bostic's hesitancy in reading plays and attacking the hole. Let's take the film analysis further to highlight both the good and bad of Bostic from last week.
First, let's take a quick look at the play that ended Williams' season, as it's one Bostic should watch repeatedly. Williams lines up the left B gap. The play will be a pitch run left to Brandon Jacobs.
Williams makes his read at the snap and immediately fills the gap, colliding into the offensive lineman and clogging the hole.
Williams then extends his arms and separates from the blocker. This, along with Lance Briggs' penetration in the A gap, forces Jacobs to cut outside.
Williams releases from the blocker and makes the tackle in the backfield. This was a textbook display of making the right read and then blowing up a play at the point of attack.
Now we move on to Bostic (blue) a few plays after Williams comes off the field. Bostic is lined up over the right guard. Briggs is going to blitz off the left edge, while LB James Anderson is off camera on the right edge. This leaves Bostic alone in the middle.
At the snap, Bostic immediately slides in the direction of the lead blocker. On the weak side, Briggs comes on the blitz, leaving a big open area on the backside of the play. PHO
Bostic puts himself completely out of position by rushing outside, which leaves a gaping cutback lane for Jacobs. On this play, Bostic failed to recognize the fact he had no help in the middle, as both of the OLBs were blitzing outside. Instead, Bostic misreads the play and over-pursues, which allows Jacobs to pick up a big chunk on the ground.
This will be a stretch run to the right side. Bostic (blue) is in the right A gap, with Briggs in the right B gap.
Briggs rushes the outside to cut the play off. Bostic does a good job of slowly working his way into his correct gap.
Briggs crashes off the right side and seals the edge. At the same time, Corey Wootton (red) gets good penetration and slows the play down in the backfield. Keeping his eyes in the backfield, Bostic uses great balance and arm separation to work through the wash.
Bostic breaks down and makes the tackle at the point of attack for no gain. On this play, Bostic slows down, makes the right read and then attacks the ball carrier. It was a strong snap for the rookie.
New York will run a sweep right with running back Da'Rel Scott. Bostic is lined up play-side across from the right tackle. PHO
The backside guard pulls and will attempt to kick out on Bostic, who again shows good balance in breaking down to meet the blocker. (Also notice how easily Shea McClellin, No. 99, gets sealed inside by the tight end).
Bostic takes the lead blocker head on and forces Scott to extend the run outside.
The rookie then extends his arms and sheds the blocker, mirroring the ball carrier down the line of scrimmage.
Bostic then separates and makes the tackle after a one-yard gain.
Bostic obviously has a lot of potential. He's a physical, disruptive player who isn't afraid to stick his nose in against the run. Athletically, he has all the tools to be Chicago's next great middle linebacker. Yet the false steps and mis-reads will be killers for the Bears' defense going forward.
Also, the hesitancy he showed in our Run Defense piece has to end. He must be able to quickly break down what the offense is doing, be confident in his read and attack. Tip toeing to the point of contact is a great way to get blasted by a lead blocker.
Bostic would be wise to watch film of Williams and the way he attacked the run, then mimic the veteran. The kid has the requisite strength and speed to be successful for the Bears – he's shown that in his brief time in Chicago. He now must start quickly learning the pro game so his mistakes don't cost the defense this season.
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.