The Chicago Bears will now accelerate the ascension of rookie linebacker Jonathan Bostic into the starting lineup on the heels of Friday's news that starter D.J. Williams is out for the season with a ruptured left pectoral muscle tendon.
But don’t look at Bostic as an upgrade, because he’s not; not yet, at least.
Certainly, Bostic made plays filling in for Williams, who missed the entire preseason with a strained calf, and finished the exhibition portion of the schedule with 13 tackles and an interception returned 51 yards for a touchdown at Carolina. But Bostic made several mistakes, which are typical for a rookie in the summer, yet crushing when the games count in the regular season.
Had Bostic clearly displayed in the preseason that he was a better option in the middle than Williams, the team would have given the rookie the starting job. Instead, the Bears put an out-of-shape Williams on the field for the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
What’s disappointing for the staff is Williams was finally returning to the player that had collected 90 tackles or more -- including 170 in 2007 -- in five of the past six seasons. Prior to the Thursday's win over the New York Giants, Williams posted 11 tackles on Oct. 6 against New Orleans, and two games before that, the linebacker sacked Ben Roethlisberger twice in a win at Pittsburgh.
Bostic definitely possesses the physical capabilities to play at a high level, but the expectation shouldn’t be that he does it overnight. Stepping in for Williams against the Giants late in the third quarter, Bostic played the final 21 snaps and struggled.
“He got in, got his nose in it, and found out that some of the stuff that we see in practice and the preseason is a little bit different on the field,” teammate Lance Briggs said.
Luckily for Bostic, however, the Bears have plenty of time to prepare the rookie second-round pick for next Sunday’s game at Washington. The club begins preparation for that game on Monday, and goes on its bye the next week before a Nov. 4 matchup at Green Bay.
“He’s going to get a lot of work on Monday and during the week,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “It’s the next-man-up mentality, and I think he’s mentally ready to take on playing that position.”
Perhaps he is. More than likely, he’s not. But at this point, it’s on the coaching staff to get him ready.