When the Chicago Bears selected linebacker Jon Bostic with the 50th overall pick in April's draft, some were disappointed that the team did not go after a bigger name linebacker such as Arthur Brown.
Brown was subsequently picked by the Baltimore Ravens a few picks later, and much like Bostic, will have the tough task of eventually becoming the successor to one of the league's greatest linebackers by following in the footsteps of Ray Lewis.
After signing veterans D.J. Williams and James Anderson, it was assumed that Williams would become the starter at middle linebacker, and Anderson would take over at the strong-side linebacker position. It is still very possible that ends up being the case, but the strong showings by Bostic in the Bears’ OTAs and minicamps have some believing he could push for a starting role.
Former Florida Gator and Chicago Bear Wilbur Marshall was not shy with his praise of Bostic, telling Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, “Now that [Brian] Urlacher is gone, hopefully he can get a fast start. He’s got a lot of speed and he’s a very smart kid. He can pick up things very quickly. He’ll be just like Urlacher. Just like Mike Singletary.”
Being compared to both Singletary and Urlacher before even stepping on the field is high praise (albeit a bit premature) from Marshall, but it, at least, shows what some in the NFL community think of him.
While at Florida, Bostic proved to be a very solid tackler, and his great instincts allow him to find the football, but he does need to work on his pass-coverage skills. He plays well in zone coverage, but tends to struggle at times in man coverage when he has to cover tight ends or running backs.
At the NFL level, he will not be able to rely solely on his athletic ability to cover tight ends and running backs and will have to show improvement in his footwork and technique in training camp if he wants to push to become a starter.
Williams is currently penciled in as the team's starting middle linebacker, but injuries, a failed drug test and legal issues have kept him off the field in recent years.
He was a tackling machine in Denver and has shown the ability to get to the quarterback, having racked up 20.5 sacks in his career, including a career-high 5.5 in 2010.
His experience as a starter at all three positions—39 starts at weak-side linebacker, 47 at middle/inside linebacker and 29 on the strong side—gives the team flexibility if Bostic is able to prove he can handle the starting middle linebacker duties.
The most likely scenario would be that Bostic would move into the middle linebacker spot, and Williams would move over to the strong side, forcing Anderson to a reserve/sub role.
Having two proven starters in Williams and Anderson ahead of him on the depth chart will likely make it difficult for Bostic to crack the starting lineup. He has all of the tools to be a starting middle linebacker, but he will have to show his improvements in pass defense in order for the coaching staff to justify making him a starter.