After practice on Wednesday, rookie Jonathan Bostic and veteran D.J. Williams were staying out late with several other linebackers, going through reads and reactions. From a distance, it wasn’t clear whether Bostic or Williams was the “1” middle linebacker going into Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
And it wasn’t a whole lot clearer from what defensive coordinator Mel Tucker had to say on the matter of his starter:
“We’ll wait and see how the week plays out, then make a decision at the end of the week and do what’s best for the team,” Tucker said.
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But following a trail of breadcrumbs – or trying to discern whether there actually is one – an early guess is that Williams has moved back into the job he lost when he went down with a severe calf injury early in training camp. Consider these “crumbs” in the inexact science of detection:
Tucker said that Williams in fact did everything in practice without limitations. “He moved around and did some good things so we’ll continue to monitor his progress,” Tucker said.
When a coach says, “he did some good things” without adding a “but,” that’s often a telling comment.
Tucker was very complimentary of Williams’ savvy, and coaches love savvy in their middle linebackers. “He’s a veteran football player, he has a high football IQ. He’s been there before and knows what it’s like.”
Then Tucker took the pro-Williams thoughts up a level: “With the veterans, that experience can work in their favor when they’re trying to get ready for a game.”
Meaning: Williams’ experience can offset some lost game-conditioning.
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Williams acknowledged that it was difficult to watch a young guy come in and adjust to the NFL. But he did it in a way that both complimented Bostic and hinted that Bostic would be ready.
“Coming into the league out of college it's a big difference, whether it's scheme-wise or the size and the speed of the game,” Williams said. “He adapted pretty well, in preseason made some big plays.
Then: “If I wasn't ready for this week I wouldn't worry about him if he had to be the starter.”
Translation: D.J. Williams is saying he is ready for this week, and Bostic was the “if he had to be the starter.”
That’s what they’re saying. You make the call.