For much of the past decade, Lance Briggs has been an every-down linebacker, paired with Brian Urlacher not only in the nickel unit but even in the dime package because of his athleticism.
Briggs, 33 and with one year remaining on his contract, may yet be part of the nickel unit. But youth also has a way of being served, and Jonathan Bostic and Shea McClellin have been taking increased reps in the nickel package.
[MORE BEARS: McClellin adjusting to linebacker]
Why that looms as potentially significant is that if Bostic in particular is in on passing downs, it points to his edging ahead of veteran D.J. Williams. Too much of the offseason remains to draw position conclusions, but the nickel personnel can be pointing out how the Bostic-Williams competition is proceeding.
“We’re slowing [Bostic’s] progressions down a little bit in terms of his run fits,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “We’re asking him to stay square a little bit longer and just mirror the ball, and fill when needed and then fall back when needed. So I think that’s allowed him to just be more of a natural linebacker off the ball.”\
McClellin has delivered in blitz situations and has appeared quicker overall from the two-point stance than he was with his hand on the ground his first two NFL seasons. McClellin also has worked as the middle linebacker in nickel.
“He’s going to be a typical 4-3 linebacker for us,” Tucker said. “I see him as probably more of a blitzer than maybe a four-down rusher. But he will have some edge rush opportunities.”