Bears' Bostic tackling his opportunity with zeal
With linebacker Shea McClellin already declared out for Sunday's 190th Bears-Packers game with a broken right hand, Jon Bostic will start his second straight game at strongside linebacker.
The fracture McClellin suffered during practice last week is a personal setback after he showed progress in Week 2 in his conversion from defensive end. And it robs the Bears of some depth at linebacker.
But it might not be such a bad break for the Bears, considering Bostic's impressive performance Monday night against the New York Jets.
The second-year, second-round pick out of Florida led all players Monday with 13 tackles. Surprisingly he's the team leader in tackles this season with 28, even though his snaps in the first two games were limited to nickel situations.
"We like the way that Bostic played in the (Jets) game," defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "I think we felt good about what he did stepping into that role. And we felt good about the way Shea was playing before he went out."
McClellin might be out for a while, but Bostic has displayed a knack for being around the football, even though the one that hit him in the hands late Monday fell to the ground "unintercepted."
"He was very good to the football," coach Marc Trestman said. "Obviously we'd love him to catch that ball there at the end of the game. But other than that, I thought he took on blocks at the line of scrimmage, at the point (of attack).
"He fit the run and ran to the ball. He played well and used his athleticism and his physicality to really help our football team."
Bostic started nine games last season, mostly because starter D.J. Williams missed 10 games with a torn chest muscle. Bostic made some splash plays in 2013 but also enough rookie mistakes that he did not come to training camp this season as a starter.
Now the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Bostic has another chance to hang on to a starting job.
"Jon's a smart man," said 12-year veteran Lance Briggs. "He's a student of the game. He's a guy that studies his opponent very well. He goes into games with a lot of tips, information alerts, motion alerts and things they do on different downs."
Sometimes, Briggs jokes, maybe too much information.
"He'll call things out," Briggs said. "Sometimes he'll call it out too soon. Sometimes he'll make a close call too soon, and I have to say, 'Jon, let me make the call.' But he's an eager guy. He wants to be a playmaker, and he is."
But there's still that dropped interception.
"If he would've caught the pick, the linebackers would have been on the board on the turnovers," Briggs said. "Now we're not, so we got a lot of heat in our defensive room. But for me, the most important stat is the 'W.' "
The defense also got big contributions from rookie tackles Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson, who both got more snaps because veteran Jeremiah Ratliff was out with a concussion.
Ferguson got his first NFL sacks, which came to him after pressure from Sutton, who had 3 solo tackles. Tucker has been impressed with their demeanor during games, and not just on the field.
"When you see guys during the game and you see them on the sideline and you see the game isn't too big for them, that's a pretty good indicator that you've got something there with those guys," Tucker said. "They're excited to play. They're looking forward to getting into the game.
"They play hard when they're in there, and they do what we ask them to do. They're aggressive. Those are the things that you're looking for from those players when they go in there. When they've taken their turns in the games, they've done well. We expect those guys to continue to get better and improve."
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