BOURBONNAIS – We knew the new linebacking corps would be a huge storyline in training camp. On Wednesday, it was guaranteed in the Bears’ first practice after their first off day of the preseason.
Before the 5,000-plus fans surrounding the practice fields could settle into their seats, linebacker D.J. Williams went down in a heap and eventually was carted off the field with a bruised calf. Unlike the calf injury to left tackle Jermon Bushrod, which the Bears say has left him as day-to-day to return to practice, Williams has been designated as week-to-week.
The difference is not at all subtle and I double-checked and confirmed it with the Bears P.R. folks before reporting it. As I wrote about Bushrod, calf injuries can be extremely finicky, and while day-to-day is exactly that, week-to-week easily can turn into three-to-six weeks if nothing is torn. If there’s a tear, we’re talking months.
We will wait for more and better information from the Bears on the extent of the damage and hope for the best. But what we can say for a fact right now is that until further notice, rookie Jon Bostic is the Bears’ starting middle linebacker.
Journeyman special teams ace Blake Costanzo is behind him on the depth chart, and behind Costanzo there is no one.
Lack of depth is a problem almost everywhere thanks mainly to a decade worth of failure in the draft by Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith & Co.
The ascension of Bostic to the focal point of this defense might turn out to be chicken salad or it could result in a real chicken’s mess.
Coach Marc Trestman apparently likes chicken salad. His take on Williams’ misfortune was: “D.J.’s going to be week-to-week, but he’s been great since he got here and he’ll get back as soon as he can. This is a great opportunity for the young guys.”
I can’t argue with that assessment, but are the young guys ready? Bostic and fourth-round draft choice Khaseem Greene were taken to be the future at linebacker. Both played the Mike backer spot in college, but both might be best-suited to eventually succeed Lance Briggs at the Will backer. Greene is being trained there now while Bostic is next man up in the middle.
Bostic actually has looked pretty good in practice showing nice instincts and explosion, and he seems to have assimilated (I speak Trestman-eze whenever I can) what defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is teaching very well. Greene, quite frankly, appears lost and to be struggling a bit. But as long as Briggs stays healthy, he will have the benefit of time to learn. Bostic has to be ready now.
The real upside here is if general manager Phil Emery chose wisely with Bostic, his learning curve is being accelerated and he could seize and hold on to the starting middle linebacker spot. Williams is a 10-year veteran on a one-year deal. Bostic is Bears property for at least the next four years.
The downside is, even if Bostic is the real deal, rushing young players into live fire before they’re ready has set even the best of them back significantly if they struggle greatly. Add the fact that middle linebacker is where every veteran on this defense has looked for help over the past 13 years and the pressure on Bostic couldn’t be any greater.
This is the first real challenge of the Trestman regime and how he and his players respond should tell us a great deal about what lies ahead.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Bourbonnais was buzzing today with reaction to Chicago Tribune reporter Brad Biggs' speculation that the read option offense is there for everyone to see in Camp Trestman. Jay Cutler was non-committal and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said "I prefer not to discuss offensive strategy with the media." Trestman acknowledged it is in the Bears playbook and said he's comfortable with Cutler running it because "Jay's a veteran who knows when to get down and protect himself," but he also stressed they're really "only going to show it to give defensive coaches one more thing to prepare for."
2. If you're a Bears fan and a NASCAR fan you should be a Kurt Busch fan. Busch was at camp Wednesday as a guest of Brian McCaskey and he told me Bears camp is the only one he'd ever visit saying "I'm a huge Bears fan!"
3. Add cornerback to the positions where the Bears are dangerously thin. I'm told Tim Jennings' "Personal Day" away from practice Wednesday is nothing to worry about but it's painfully obvious when either he or Peanut are off the field.