Sunday playbook: Rookie LB Jon Bostic content with special-teams role for now
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter September 21, 2013 1:04AM
Rookie linebacker Jon Bostic (57) says he’s content — for now — to learn as much as he can from the starters. | Getty Images
Updated: October 23, 2013 6:28AM
Rookie linebacker Jon Bostic tracked the ball carrier with the smarts and speed that make the Bears’ brass coo about his potential. And then he struck with the intense force that makes fans swoon.
But don’t expect Bostic to boast about the nearly perfect form he showed on a tackle on a kickoff return last week by the Vikings’ Cordarrelle Patterson.
‘‘I couldn’t tell you which [kickoff] it was,’’ Bostic said. ‘‘[But] I made a tackle inside the 20. I’m just doing whatever they ask me to do.’’
So far, that hasn’t featured any snaps on defense. Bostic has been on the field for 37 plays, and all of them have been on special teams.
While some young, highly touted players might be bothered by such a situation, Bostic genuinely doesn’t seem to be.
Press him about sitting on the sideline and playing only special teams, and he’ll impress you more with his humility and sense of place.
Bostic seems authentically content with biding his time behind D.J. Williams, Lance Briggs and James Anderson. And all he talks about is learning.
‘‘From Day 1, I was going to come in and do whatever these coaches asked of me and just do everything as hard as I can to keep learning,’’ Bostic said. ‘‘The coaches are going to put the best people out there to win the game.
‘‘I just have to keep learning from these guys in front me. They’ve played a lot of football. You really don’t get to walk into a linebacker room that I’ve walked into often. . . . It really is making my transition a lot easier.’’
There doesn’t appear to be a plan right now to get Bostic some snaps on defense. Williams has surprised the Bears with how well he has played since missing the preseason with a calf injury. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said he saw progress from Week 1 to Week 2.
‘‘I like D.J. in there,’’ Tucker said.
What about rotating in Bostic?
‘‘Everyone has a role, and then whatever those roles are, we’ll perform them on Sunday,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘I don’t want to get into the hypotheticals. I don’t have a crystal ball at this point.’’
A big lead by the Bears might result in Bostic getting some reps at midlle linebacker, but Bostic said, ‘‘Really, I don’t think of it.’’
It can be argued that Bostic won’t progress and become the replacement for Brian Urlacher he was drafted to be if he’s not playing. But the second-round pick from Florida sees progress.
He has become a diligent note-taker, following Briggs’ lead. And he often stays late after practice with rookie Khaseem Greene, meticulously going over ‘‘how we’re going to fit stuff up, what we should be thinking, our alerts [and] our checks before each and every play.’’
‘‘It’s a little difficult, but it’s cool,’’ Bostic said.
Just like he’s cool with making big tackles on special teams now.
COACH’S CORNER WITH DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MEL TUCKER
Containing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be the Bears’ No. 1 goal against the Steelers, just like limiting Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was last Sunday.
Big Ben and A.P. are very different, but both require gang-tackling — or population-tackling, as the Bears put it — to make sure they’re down.
‘‘They’ve done a great job over the years with Roethlisberger; he’s a Hall of Fame-type quarterback,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘He makes plays with his feet. You have to keep him in the pocket. When he improvises, he’s very, very dangerous.’’
Under Tucker’s orders, the Bears’ video department put together highlight tapes of Roethlisberger’s greatest escapes, which sometimes end when ‘‘he throws the ball 60 yards for a touchdown,’’ he said.
‘‘He’s big, he’s strong, he’s not afraid to stand in there,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘He shakes guys off. It usually takes more than one guy. The first guy usually doesn’t get it done, so we’ve got to get multiple guys on him. We have to keep him in the pocket, coordinate a pass rush [with] everyone working together.
‘‘And then we have to have the coverage behind it. He’s one of the tougher guys to get down on the ground. And even when you’re hanging on the guy, he still makes a throw down the field. When he scrambles, he’s looking to throw. He can throw it 60 yards on the run. He’s a rare guy in that way. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us.’’
UNSUNG SPOTLIGHT: FB TONY FIAMMETTA
Matt Forte cut to the outside, burst past a couple of Vikings and headed downfield before being knocked out of bounds after a 24-yard gain.
And fullback Tony Fiammetta helped make it happen. Without his block on linebacker Erin Henderson in the hole, Forte wouldn’t have had his longest run of the young season.
‘‘It’s what we’re supposed to do,’’ Fiammetta said. ‘‘As a fullback, you’ve got to give yourself up for a running back so you can make big plays. I have no problems doing that, and the more success he has, the better I feel about things.’’
Fullback might be a position facing extinction, but coach Marc Trestman’s offense has a place for a prototypical one in Fiammetta. He has played 41 offensive snaps in the Bears’ first two games.
But the four-year veteran also has jobs on special teams — he blocks, of course — seeing time on the Bears’ kickoff- and punt-return units. So Fiammetta was enthused to be part of Devin Hester’s record-breaking day against the Vikings, too.
‘‘It’s good because you know if you do what you’re supposed to do, it’s going to go a long way,’’ he said.
Coach Marc Trestman’s ability to connect with his players was on full display when he was seen playing catch with tight end Martellus Bennett after practice last week. Bennett jokingly called it ‘‘a little father-son time.’’
It’s just another sign of how different Trestman is from former coach Lovie Smith.
‘‘Early on we didn’t have a JUGS machine, and I said, ‘I’ll be your JUGS machine after practice and make sure you get the 20 to 30 balls you need to finish your day,’ and I’ve done that with other guys,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘And I enjoy doing that. When you get to go outside and play catch with a football, who doesn’t want to do that?’’
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The Steelers’ overall talent might not be what it once was, but 32-year-old safety Troy Polamalu is still a threat. Calf injuries limited him last season, but the 2010 defensive player of the year and seven-time Pro Bowler is determined to regain his high level of play. Pro Football Focus gave him a strong 3.1 rating Monday against the Bengals.
The Bears can’t let Polamalu’s improvising ways lead to big plays.
‘‘He doesn’t really like to play by all the rules sometimes, like rolling coverages and going where he’s supposed to go,’’ quarterback Jay Cutler said. ‘‘So you could have a three-deep look and he’s supposed to be three-deep-middle, and he could be eight yards deep, jumping routes. You’ve just got to be aware of him.’’