Williams vs. Bostic is the tough choice before Trestman
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter September 3, 2013 10:57PM
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Updated: September 4, 2013 1:41PM
D.J. Williams or Jon Bostic?
Marc Trestman was brought here to nudge the Bears’ offense into the 21st century. But deciding whether Williams or Bostic starts at middle linebacker against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 8 — and beyond — could go a long way toward determining Trestman’s success as the Bears’ head coach.
Lovie Smith, don’t forget, was even more accomplished as a defensive coach in the NFL than Trestman is on offense. It was Smith’s inability to make the right decisions on the other side of the ball that cost him his job.
The Williams-or-Bostic quandary will come into focus when Williams practices or doesn’t practice Wednesday after missing four weeks with a nagging calf injury. In his stead, Bostic has made steady progress.
But the Bears have been extra careful not to anoint Bostic the full-time starter even though it’s clear the rookie from Florida won’t be overwhelmed by the role. They still listed Williams as the starter at middle linebacker in the first unofficial depth chart released Tuesday — without a wink-wink — even though Williams has missed the last four weeks.
Williams has earned the respect. He’s a nine-year starter who led the Denver Broncos in tackles five times. The Bears likely will be better with him at middle linebacker — at least at the beginning of the season.
On the other hand, Bostic has shown enough in the preseason to suggest that starting anybody else might be standing in the way of progress. Even the Bears coaches rave about his ability to learn quickly and not make the same mistake twice. His speed is obvious. The viral impact of his tremendous hitting ability is enticing. The big question is whether Trestman and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will pull the trigger on a bold and perhaps tricky move. The other question is whether it’s the right move. That’s why Trestman gets paid the big bucks.
It’s only a matter of time. Players such as Bostic usually are better served on the field, making plays and learning from their mistakes. In 2003, Lance Briggs was in Bostic’s position. A third-round draft pick, Briggs was a hit in training camp, even taking first-team reps at strongside linebacker in practice during the preseason. But Bryan Knight was the opening-day starter.
It took three games for the Bears to figure out that they couldn’t stand in the way of progress. Briggs made his first start in Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders (as did fellow rookie Charles Tillman) and helped stifle Trestman’s offense and shut down reigning NFL MVP Rich Gannon in a 24-21 victory at Soldier Field. By the end of that season, Briggs was entrenched. Smith moved him to the weakside the next year, and Briggs has been going to Pro Bowls ever since.
In 2003, it took 104 points allowed by the Bears’ defense in their first three games to convince them that Briggs and Tillman were the better options over Knight and Jerry Azumah. This team is unlikely to be in that kind of predicament. This big, bold decision is likely to be entirely on Trestman.
An entirely different tape of guy
Playing in the NFL has introduced 20-year-old Marquess Wilson to a whole new world of learning to play wide receiver — like watching film.
‘‘That’s one thing that’s helped me out — watching film,’’’ said Wilson, the Bears’ seventh-round pick from Washington State who will turn 21 on Sept. 14. ‘‘In college, film wasn’t something I really keyed on. It was here that I’ve taken the step and watched film and studied the DBs.’’
It’s not that the 6-4, 184-pound Wilson wasn’t exposed to film — videotape, technically — under Mike Leach and wide receivers coach Mike Levenseller at Washington State. He just couldn’t get the hang of it. He’s actually learning how to learn under Marc Trestman, Aaron Kromer and Mike Groh.
‘‘At Washington State, Coach Levenseller, he preaches coverages. But I could never get ’em,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘At one point, I was like, ‘Coach, I just gotta play.’ But I picked up little things and worked on them with him. It helped me coming here. I was able to pick things up quickly here.’’
Wilson said he can see the difference film study makes.
‘‘Just knowing where the open spots are going to be when you’re running plays,’’ he said.
The youngest player in the NFL, Wilson credited his Bears teammates with helping him acclimate after a fractured finish to his college career. He was suspended for leaving practice and later quit the team last season, claiming mental and physical abuse by Leach — a charge he recanted.
‘‘Just putting that behind me and coming into this great locker room and having the support system here, it’s amazing,’’ he said. ‘‘Everybody on this team is looking out for each other, making sure we have our mind right when step on the field. I feel comfortable talking to anybody on this team.’’
Hawkins: I owe it all to Trestman
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins is a better player in the NFL than he was in the CFL. And he owes it all to Marc Trestman.
‘‘I probably wouldn’t be in the NFL had I not had the opportunity to play for him,’’ said Hawkins, who will not play in Sunday’s opener against the Bears because of an ankle injury but will make the trip. ‘‘He taught me how to be a professional — about my work, my attitude. I’ve said it numerous times: I thank God for the opportunity to play under him, because I don’t think I’d be where I am today without him.’’
The 5-7 Hawkins was an undrafted free agent out of Toledo who even lost in the reality show ‘‘4th and Long’’ for a shot at an NFL training camp. But Trestman gave him the chance nobody else would.
Hawkins, the younger brother of former Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins, was a supporting player for Trestman’s 2009 and 2010 Grey Cup championship teams. But he parlayed the two years with Trestman into NFL opportunities. After getting cut by the St. Louis Rams, he made the Bengals in 2011. Last year, he was their third leading receiver with 51 receptions for 533 yards and four touchdowns.
‘‘I wish I could explain it,’’ Hawkins said. ‘‘All coaches are detailed. But every coaching style is different. With him, it was something unique that you’re not seeing in football.
‘‘I have a great coach in Marvin Lewis — he lights a fire under you. He wants to motivate you verbally and get you to go out there and get things done. That’s a great way to do it. With Marc, what’s so unique about him is you’re not used to seeing that style in a football setting. He doesn’t raise his voice very much. He tells you exactly what he wants in the same tone. He’ll tell you you’re wrong in the same tone he tells you, ‘Great job.’ It’s unique. I think it works. You buy into it.’’
THE EMERY FACTOR
Post-Angelo housecleaning easy to count
Since taking over for Jerry Angelo in January 2012, Bears general manager Phil Emery has replaced 41 of the 63 players who were on the Bears roster for the final game of the Angelo era (53 active, 10 on injured reserve). Emery has revamped the offense. Only six of 30 offensive players remain: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Earl Bennett, Roberto Garza, Kyle Adams and Josh McCown.
Of those 42 players, 13 are still in the NFL:
Gabe Carimi, OT, Buccaneers
Tyler Clutts, FB, Dolphins
Corey Graham, CB, Ravens
Israel Idonije, DE, Lions
Brandon Meriweather, S,
D.J. Moore, CB, Panthers
Nick Roach, LB, Raiders
Dane Sanzenbacher, WR,
Matt Spaeth, TE, Steelers
Chris Spencer, G, Titans
J.T. Thomas, LB, Jaguars
J’Marcus Webb, OT, Vikings
Chris Williams, T/G, Rams