If Bostic starts for Bears, then so does trouble

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If Jon Bostic starts this season, the Bears are in trouble.

I don’t think Bostic is ready to be a starting middle linebacker for a Super Bowl contender, and apparently, neither do the Bears, or they wouldn’t have re-signed D.J. Williams and put him atop the depth chart in the middle.

Williams just turned 32 and is coming off a torn pectoral. Bostic is nine years younger and apparently is healthy enough to overrun any play an offense can think up. And that’s the first reason Williams is the starter.

The second reason might be that Bears coaches and management have done everything to gin up competition in training camp, starting with using some form of the word “compete’’ approximately 25,000 times in one news conference.

Bears coaches and management might think Bostic will become better by having to work his way up from second string, although he’s in the middle in the nickel package. It’s a tactic that has been used successfully with football players, but it reeks of lame because starting decisions still come down to a player’s smarts and technique.

Which leads to the third reason I believe Williams is the starter and will remain so as long as he’s healthy: He might be the best tackler on the team.

Williams showed speed along with smarts and technique in averaging more than three tackles a game last season before ending his season after six games. He had two sacks, putting him on pace for five, which would’ve threatened the team lead, such as it was last year, and thanks for that, Julius Peppers.

In fewer than half the games that Bostic played, Williams averaged more tackles and totaled more sacks.

But once Williams went down for the year after defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins suffered season-ending injuries, the Bears gave up 100-yard rushing games to players you’d never heard of and never will again. Opponents tore through the middle of what used to be the Bears defense, easily reaching the skidding, sliding, slipping, sloppy safeties because the middle linebacker either couldn’t make the tackle or wasn’t even in position to give it a shot.

It’s hard to remember after all the horrible play, but even after a couple injuries early last season, the Bears defense still played respectably. Williams was a big reason. He will be again this season.

It’s not the big hits, such as the one Williams laid on Ka’Deem Carey on Sunday, it’s the sure hits. It shouldn’t be such a revelation that a football player stands out because he can tackle, but these days, that’s the case, especially with the Bears history.

One of the sad developments of the new collective bargaining agreement is the reduction of padded practices. The Bears had their first on Sunday. They will have another Monday. And then not again until, I don’t know, the week of the first Green Bay game, I believe. I’ll have to check on that, but you get the idea.

The fewer padded practices, the less practice tackling. The less practice getting to the right spot to tackle, as well. It doesn’t all get solved in the practice games, which is why smart Bears coaches have given the starting middle linebacker job to the sure thing instead of the high draft guess.

The Bears might be better equipped this season to withstand a kid middle linebacker’s eagerness and mistakes, especially if they don’t have to pull starting defensive tackles off the street again. But you don’t get points for degree of difficulty.

Maybe Bostic makes the big jump in professional play that some people expect. Maybe he figures out how to cover and diagnose plays. Maybe that retooled defensive line can deodorize the shortcomings of a sophomore linebacker. That’s a lot of maybes -- too many for me when it involves a team thinking Super Bowl.
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