On display: Bostic's wow factor

Veterans impressed with savvy Bears rookie linebacker shows and blows he delivers

After rookie head-hunter Jon Bostic knocked Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie into next week during the second exhibition game Thursday night, they were saying in the Bears huddle what you were thinking.


Keep in mind pro football players don't impress as easily as Bears fans waiting for the next great linebacker in a city spoiled by the position.

"It kind of looked Lance Briggs-esque,'' defensive end Corey Wootton said. "It was a heck of a hit. Everyone said, 'That's mini-Lance over there.' ''

That's major praise after only eight NFL quarters but no one who has watched Bostic closely considers it hyperbole — not even a certain seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker. Asked if such a bold comparison was valid this early, Briggs nodded enthusiastically.

"Absolutely,'' Briggs said. "He picks things up faster than I did mentally. He asks questions every play. Adjustments have to be made on the run and he makes them. He understands the system and where he needs to be.''

Bostic needs to be in the starting lineup Week 1 even after forgotten veteran free-agent starter … wait, his name is here somewhere … D.J. Williams returns from a calf injury. Back in 2003, Briggs didn't start as a rookie until the fourth game. There's no reason for Bostic to wait that long on a team in transition unafraid of trusting youth. Give him a chance to make as much impact as any Bears defensive rookie since Tommie Harris in 2004.

Nothing against Williams, but the Bears would benefit in Mel Tucker's new defense by taking their chances with a young leader easy to envision starting for the next five to seven years over a banged-up 31-year-old rent-a-player. Forget just rookies. No Bears defensive player this preseason has stood out more than Bostic, who followed up an interception return for a touchdown in his pro debut with a loud hit that echoed throughout the league. He belongs.

His closing speed and power gives the defense an explosiveness the Bears thought they lost when Brian Urlacher retired. Any aggressive errors Bostic commits will be offset by the plays he disrupts guessing correctly. Playing between smart, savvy NFL graybeards Briggs and James Anderson will keep mistakes to a minimum. He pursues the ball with doggedness; a Bostic-to-itiveness, if you will.

"He has tenacity and he's exciting,'' Briggs said. "He's more comfortable than most rookies. Most rookies are big-eyed. He's still big-eyed but we have a good group. We tell a lot of jokes on the field to get comfortable. He laughs a lot.''

What is so funny?

"Lance, he's different,'' Bostic said. "He's a guy who gets everybody going. He's dancing, all types of stuff. He brings energy. To learn from him, you can't ask for more.''

Gradually, the chemistry questions at linebacker that the void of Urlacher created have begun to answer themselves. Roles emerge, and Bostic credits his rapport with Briggs, Williams and Anderson with expediting his education in Pro Football 101. It helps that the second-round draft pick from Florida regularly arrives at work prepared to hit the playbook as hard as a running back.

"I walk into meeting room with all those veteran linebackers … and it's interesting to see how much they really know, how they see different concepts so much faster,'' Bostic said. "I want to be at that level.''

To expand his knowledge base, Bostic occasionally researches the irreplaceable player he replaces on the depth chart.

"I'm watching a lot of film of Urlacher,'' Bostic said. "How he fit the run and played the pass. I improved playing the pass from the first to second game. For him to play how he played for (13) years … man. It was a big help to just watch that.''

Studying Bostic closer, areas of improvement still require emphasis. At 6 foot 1, 245 pounds, Bostic must prove he consistently can take on blockers directly in the hole. As former Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer pointed out, Bostic should excel against zone-blocking teams because of quickness but he needs to guard against overrunning plays. He also can't be so locked on making big hits that he misses entirely.

Interestingly, Bostic reminded Hillenmeyer more of former Bears and Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa than Briggs — high praise nonetheless.

"He's very sudden; not many guys can pop a guy like that in the open field,'' Hillenmeyer said. "Can he be enough of a student of the game to make the easy plays and put himself in the right spots? If he can, he can be great. Having Lance next to him will make him a better player immediately.''

Keeping Bostic next to Briggs as the starting middle linebacker will make the Bears a better defense now and later. That has been easy for everyone to see — and hear.


Twitter @DavidHaugh