Bears rookie linebacker Jon Bostic bears heavy burden
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org July 28, 2013 8:27PM
the jon bostic file
Ht/Wt: 6-1/246 Pos: LB College: Florida Drafted: 2nd-round pick (50th overall)
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Updated: July 29, 2013 3:52PM
BOURBONNAIS — Bears linebacker Jon Bostic had more pads than he needed. He had his own shoulder pads and helmet on and a pair of each in his hands as he walked off the practice field at Olivet Nazarene University.
Just a little rookie hazing.
“Really, I don’t see it as hazing,” Bostic said of carrying the shoulders pads and helmets of veteran linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson on Sunday. “It’s really just out of respect.”
In a way, that about defines Bostic.
Here’s a young, talented linebacker from a powerhouse program, Florida, who was drafted essentially to replace future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher. Bostic has worked almost exclusively at middle linebacker and is considered one of the most important building blocks for a defense that will see the contracts of seven of its 11 projected starters expire after this season.
But Bostic comes off like an undrafted free agent trying everything he can just to make the team. Ask Bostic what he needs to work on after watching film of himself, he says, “Everything.”
“Really, I don’t look at it as [being a building block],” said Bostic, the 50th overall pick. “I’m kind of just looking at it as trying to come out and be the best player I can be — take it day-by-day, learn as much as I can and learn from these guys in front of me.
“You don’t really get to come into a [linebacker] room like that too often. So coming into a room with guys that have a lot of experience, I’m just trying to learn from them.”
Bostic isn’t exactly in an easy situation. There’s pressure on Bostic to be a contributor this season, and he’s coming in at a time of major change. How the defense adjusts without Urlacher and coach Lovie Smith is a story line now and will be throughout the season.
As linebacker Lance Briggs said, “You’re now told to change and do things a different way. It just takes time.”
But Bostic seemingly has come in with the right outlook. He is appreciative of the chance to learn from Briggs, Williams and Anderson. And they’re taking notice of his character and approach.
“Anytime you’re a middle linebacker, you have to naturally be a leader, so that’s something he’s ready to do,” said Anderson, who’s in his eighth season. “He wants to learn. He’s eager to learn.”
Bostic is handling the calls for the second-team defense, and those who play with him say he has the voice and demeanor for it. It’s a role he’s comfortable with, especially after calling the plays at Florida and in high school. But his comfort level with the Bears’ base cover-2 scheme needs work and time. He said dropping down the middle in coverage feels natural, but how the defense is designed to stop the run has surprised him.
“At Florida, we were a big man-to-man team and played some cover-3,” Bostic said. “So we always loaded the box to stop the run. We had corners that could lock up on the outside.
“But playing cover-2 and learning all the insides and outs of the cover-2 and how you can stop the run out of it, it’s really kind of interesting to me.”
Some Bears conspiracy theorists still contend that Shea McClellin is the team’s middle linebacker of the future, regardless of the team’s insistence that McClellin will be a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end for the time being. McClellin might develop into a hybrid-type player at some point, but he knows exactly what Bostic was drafted for.
“A lot of people wanted me and probably still want me to play linebacker, but they drafted him to play it,” McClellin said.
“They want me to play [defensive] end and that’s what I’m going to do. He’s going to step up whenever they need him. He’ll be good.”