As the Chicago Bears prepare to begin training camp, there have been rumblings about second-year linebacker Jon Bostic competing for a starting spot. The expectation shouldn’t be for him to be in competition for the job, it should be for him to win it.
After drafting Bostic, Bears general manager Phil Emery said “I felt it was very important that if we were going to take a linebacker in the second round, that we could get someone who could immediately fill in in all three spots. If one of our current starters was not available due to injury that he could fill in and immediately we would have a good football player in place right now.”
Bostic got that opportunity as veteran D.J. Williams was injured and the Bears rookie had to start the final 10 games. He struggled more than one would expect a second-round pick to, but that experience should be helping him now.
Perhaps it’s unfair to judge him too harshly due to the deterioration of the Bears defensive line, but he has a chance to show he’s better this year. And he should be expected to be, which makes the fact that he’s not currently seen as a starter a bit puzzling.
When the Bears drafted Bostic 50th overall in 2013, they were getting an athletically gifted, but raw linebacker. Players who are taken in the top 50 should be expected to be regular starters by their second season.
Bostic shouldn’t have played as much as he did as a rookie. He looked lost most of the time and wasn’t able to use his athleticism to his advantage. That said, if he’s as talented as the Bears believed when they drafted him, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be their starter when they open the 2014 season.
With all due respect to Williams, it was clear last year that he isn’t the player he once was. He wasn’t bad last year, but he also wasn’t a real difference maker. The expectation is that Bostic will be that kind of player, but he has to start showing it.
Williams is also coming off of a season-ending injury and has played just 14 games over the last two seasons. When the Bears signed him to a one-year contract prior to the 2013 season, it was just to keep the spot warm for Bostic — or whomever else they planned on drafting — for the 2014 season.
Of course, Bostic isn’t just competing with Williams. He’s competing with former first-round pick Shea McClellin for the starting strongside linebacker spot. Without any other major competition, the Bears should be expecting both players to start or it will be clear that at least one of them was a huge mistake.
The time for Bostic to show he’s the kind of player the Bears thought they drafted is now. He can be given a pass for last year’s performance due to his youth and surroundings, but he needs to show he can play this year.
If Bostic isn’t able to beat Williams or McClellin out, the Bears will have to look elsewhere for their next great linebacker.