When the Chicago Bears drafted Florida Gators star middle linebacker Jon Bostic with the 50th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, timing and circumstance meant that expectations were probably never going to be realistic. Dealing with the loss of future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, Chicago was desperate to find their next great mike linebacker, and given Bostic's time in the SEC and his NFL pedigree (his father played for Detroit from 1985-87), many pegged Bostic as the answer before he ever saw the field.
Then, when veteran signee D.J. Williams went down with an injury in the preseason and Bostic took advantage of his first-team reps with an interception return for a touchdown and a highlight reel hit, the legend had already been born. At 22, Jon "Boom" Bostic was the future of the vaunted Bears defense.
The reality of the situation was that, while Bostic had showcased the incredible talent that made him a Top 50 pick, he was still adjusting to the complexities of the National Football League. Williams would eventually return to reclaim his starting spot, but when D.J. went down again in Week Seven and Bostic found himself as the everyday starter in the middle of a defense that had been decimated by injury, Bostic never had a chance to live up to the billing.
Now, a year removed from a rookie season that most are eager to deem disappointing, Bostic finds himself in a heated competition to win the starting middle linebacker job, and he believes he's finally in a position to meet everyone's lofty presumptions.
"Being a second year guy is big. I'm playing a lot faster than I did last year," Bostic said after Friday's practice in Bourbonnais. "I don't really have to think as much this year, so now I can start focusing on my tendencies — splits to the receivers, splits to the o-line, where the backs’ eyes are looking and things like that."
Now a week into camp, Bostic is one of three players on the roster vying for first-team reps at MLB (along with Williams and former first-round pick and converted defensive end Shea McClellin) with hopes of winning defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's confidence and a starting job.
And, now that Mel Tucker has been allowed the freedom to be truly multiple defensively in 2014, Bostic's combination of size, power and speed may make him the best overall fit at the position.
"We're going to do a lot of things," Bostic quipped when asked about how Tucker's system is seemingly changing. "We're still going to be in a base Cover Two defense, but we're going to find more ways to get after the quarterback.
And luckily for Bostic and the rest of the Bears defense, getting after the quarterback is something this unit is more well-equipped to do with the offseason addition of free agent defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, and rookie defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton.
That influx of talent and depth means that whoever starts at middle linebacker, be it Bostic, Williams or McClellin, will have the talent and depth in front of them to feel comfortable in the center of that defense.
"We're healthy up front, and we know, in this defense, we're nothing without our front four. If that front four is not playing (well), we're nothing. When they are playing, it makes the linebacker's job easier. We get to come over the top and make tackles. And when they're getting that pass rush it makes the DB's job a lot easier, too."
Bostic's fate in regard to the starting position isn't likely to be settled until Week One, but the level of competition at the position has certainly been exciting. It's probably the most visible position battle running in Bourbonnais, and it's been a predominant topic of discussion among fans and media members.
Regardless of whether or not Bostic wins the job, he'll be a factor in 2014 as a reserve and as a special teams contributor. But what he's really hoping to do is live up to the "Boom" Bostic hype, and he'd love to do it sooner than later.
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