Former All-Pro Brian Urlacher left a huge void at middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears when he decided to retire. Since the team has to fill the starting position for the first time in 13 seasons, it should be no surprise that the battle to be the starter is the biggest in camp.
When the Bears signed veteran D.J. Williams back in March, many believed he would be the starter for the 2013 campaign. Williams had spent nine years with the Denver Broncos registering over 600 tackles.
His experience and productivity virtually had him as a shoe-in for the job until a stud rookie by the name of Jon Bostic came on the scene.
Bostic was drafted in the second round out of Florida. As a Gator, Bostic had over 200 tackles, 7.5 sacks and five interceptions.
It was going to be a back-and-forth battle regardless of the situation, but further complicating things is D.J. Williams' recent injury. He was carted off the field recently during camp and has been diagnosed with a calf strain.
Williams is week to week with the strain, but these injuries can linger. More importantly, Bostic is now running with the first-team defense.
This will allow Bostic to get comfortable and acclimated sooner than anybody predicted. Any time Williams misses means Bostic gets a leg up on him.
Bostic plays a downhill style from the middle linebacker position. He is especially effective in stopping the run. His athleticism and speed will be a great complement to Henry Melton and Stephen Paea. Putting Bostic next to Lance Briggs gives the Bears a formidable run defense.
Williams is by no means out of this battle. Should he be able to get back on the field quickly, he will still have plenty of camp time and four preseason games to overtake the youngster.
The inside track still has to be given to Williams. He has the experience and wherewithal to be an every-down starter. He's seen everything this league can throw at you, which is especially important for a middle linebacker in a tough division.
Bostic has the skill set, but like every rookie, he will go through his peaks and valleys. There will be times when Bostic will be out of position or over-pursue because it's typical for a young man in his situation.
It all shapes up to be a fairly even battle. The Bears are not against starting Bostic if he proves worthy. It will come down to a smart and savvy veteran versus an explosive and fiery rookie.
No matter who wins, it will definitely be one exciting battle.