Bears LB coach Reggie Herring tackles problem at position
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter May 17, 2014 9:32PM
Updated: June 23, 2014 1:01PM
At times, Reggie Herring looks as if he’s running through the linebacker drills instead of instructing them. His face turns red, and sweat trickles down his face. He stomps, he points, he barks.
It’s an old-school approach that makes him very good at what he does. And it’s an approach the Bears hope resolves their quandaries at linebacker — the position that’s defined them for decades.
“When I walked in the first day, I said there’s only one guy in this room — and he’s earned it — who has got a starting spot, and that’s Lance Briggs,” Herring, the Bears’ new linebackers coach, said during rookie minicamp at Halas Hall.
“I told the rest of them the sky is the limit, and it’s on them.”
The “rest of them” would be end-turned-linebacker Shea McClellin, 10-year veteran D.J. Williams and second-year linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene.
The safety competition might be wide open, but it’s the variety of backgrounds and high-pick talent of the linebackers that make that position battle the best and most compelling.
“They all have abilities that can help us in this league,” Herring said.
A dream scenario for the Bears would be seeing McClellin (the 19th overall pick in 2012) and Bostic (the 50th selection last year) win out, whether it’s Bostic in the middle and McClellin on the strong side or vice versa.
For starters, it would validate having taken them so high in the draft. The Bears showed faith in Bostic and McClellin by not drafting a linebacker this year, opting for the riskier route of pursuing undrafted free agents such as Christian Jones of Florida State.
Herring has coached All-Pro linebackers such as Brian Cushing, Zach Thomas, Keith Brooking and DeMarcus Ware and genuinely sounds sold on the abilities of Bostic and McClellin.
But Herring’s evaluation process is just beginning. He plans to move Bostic, McClellin, Greene and Williams “all around” while Tucker’s new scheme is implemented during organized team activities.
For Bostic, success will come when he learns how to harness his speed, Herring said.
“Jon Bostic is a very talented young player that is very instinctive and explosive,” he said. “He’s really a smart guy, trying to do right. [He’s] a hungry young guy that hopefully with that year of experience will learn to tempo things and not just be fast all the time. It’s an experience thing.”
The real grunt work will come with turning McClellin’s natural gifts into linebacker skills after he was primarily a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end for his first two seasons.
Herring evaluated the do-everything version of McClellin at Boise State when he coached for the Houston Texans and raves about his potential.
“The big question with him was dropping weight and getting to a linebacker weight [and] he did it,” Herring said.
“He’s unbelievable His movement skills are as good and fluid as anybody out there. That’s the impressive thing. His instinctive, reactionary [skills] are really good.
“Now we don’t play the game in skirts [and] we’re not wearing Tommy Bahamas shirts. But, he moves and is instinctive in drills as any of them. What that does is get you excited, but there’s a process. We’ve got to get the helmets on. We’ve got to go live bullets. We have to see how he reacts in space.
“All the signs are good because his movement skills and instincts [reacting] are really good.”
Their time together has been limited — and the Bears’ rookie minicamp has taken over Halas Hall — but Herring sees potential in his group of linebackers.
“We have a great dynamic in the room and on the field,” Herring said. “I have seen no signs of red flags or negativity. It’s been really good for me.”