- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery was careful last month to avoid pinpointing an exact position for rookie linebacker Jon Bostic, a middle linebacker at Florida who should have the inside track to be Brian Urlacher's long-time replacement. Veteran D.J. Williams is under contract and available to play the middle, and Emery said he wanted Bostic to learn all three linebacker positions.
So it's worth noting that Bostic worked at his familiar and presumed position during the Bears' rookie minicamp over the weekend, as Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com notes. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker called Bostic "a smart guy" and a "take-control guy," describing the natural attributes of a middle linebacker, but he also added: "It's a case-by-case deal. You just have to wait and see. Our job is to get the best players on the field, so we'll see how it shakes out. But you never want to paint a guy into a box. It's open competition across the board in our system, but obviously we are not going to pre-determine what a guy can or cannot do early. So we'll just see."
The Bears have several options if they want to ease Bostic into the job. According to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, veteran outside linebacker Lance Briggs has offered to call the defense in Urlacher's absence and did so at the team's recent veteran minicamp. If Briggs handles that part of the job, the Bears could take Bostic off the field in nickel situations and not be concerned about a transition in making calls.
Also, Williams could shift outside and start alongside Bostic and Briggs if the Bears decide they are the team's top three linebackers. Williams told the team's website last month that the Bears had approached him early in free agency with two separate plans: one if Urlacher had re-signed and one if he did not. That approach suggests a willingness to play Williams on the strong side. (Note: The quote no longer appears on the site.)
All of it will depend on how fast Bostic picks up the defense and exhibits a comfort level in training camp. But as we've discussed, the Bears did not appear to sign Williams with the intent of making him their long-term middle linebacker. Bostic is a more logical answer there.