Coach Marc Trestman said after the Oakland Raiders game that he expected to hold all of his starters out of the Browns game Thursday night. He came off that slightly as this week went along, allowing that, “most of the starters will not play” and that “there will be some exceptions along the way.”
Which exceptions will play out early Thursday evening and one in particular warrants special attention, as it has all through preseason: middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic.
Bostic got his opportunity to start when D.J. Williams suffered a severe calf pull. Bostic has played like a No. 2 draft pick and only defensive back C.J. Wilson (93) and tackle Nate Collins (86) have played more than Bostic’s 85 snaps among defensive players.
The issue with Bostic is pass coverage, and it is a big one. The Cincinnati Bengals got 64 catches last season from tight end Jermaine Gresham and used their first-round pick on another tight end, Tyler Eifert from Notre Dame.
And tight ends exploiting the middle of the Chicago defense was something that didn’t happen with Brian Urlacher on point.
Bostic currently is removed in nickel situations. But a team with tight ends of that caliber can stay with two tight ends in a package that will keep Bostic on the field. It is critical that Bostic continue developing in pass coverage, an area where he has been victimized for a couple of scores this preseason.
[RELATED GIF: Bostic lays huge hit on Chargers]
“We’re going to match personnel when we can,” coordinator Mel Tucker said. “We’ll play ‘base.’ We’ll play ‘nickel.’ We may even play some other personnel groupings. It’s just whatever game we need to play as for opponent and what type of matchups you want to have defensively.”
The performances of Blake Costanzo, rookie Khaseem Greene and J.T. Thomas are important but their lead roles are on special teams, one of the perennial strengths of the Bears.