CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Players do not lose starting jobs because of injury. They do, however, lose jobs if the player filling in for them outplays them. That situation could be playing out at middle linebacker for the Bears.
Veteran D.J. Williams, the presumptive starter after signing a one-year contract to succeed Brian Urlacher, was carted off the field during the July 31 practice with a calf injury. It was initially described ominously as “week-to-week” by coach Marc Trestman. Williams was still in a walking boot Friday night before the preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
Whether Williams’ absence from the starting lineup becomes permanent took a turn when rookie Jonathan Bostic took his play to a next level against the Panthers.
Bostic not only produced the Bears’ first score of the 2013 preseason with a 51-yard return of an interception. He also did it by “spying” quarterback Cam Newton, being given the assignment not of working in coverage but solely of watching the athletic Panthers quarterback.
Bostic did all of that and, after a missed tackle early, collected two solo tackles, one of those for a loss, and broke up a second pass.
Bears defenses over the past 13 years have been dominant in part because of Urlacher’s rare ability to drop into coverages. Bostic’s first experience against another opponent spotlighted exactly that skill and advanced Bostic’s already strong push to be the starting middle linebacker by opening day.
And all of this is happening while Bostic is still re-learning some of the defenses he played at Florida.
“We’ve played that defense in practice, and for me it’s about breaking patterns,” Bostic said. “We do it differently, some differences. Every defense has its way of doing things, reading the quarterback, reading the three steps, whatever.”