Chicago Bears Position Battles: MLB

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  1. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    Chicago Bears Position Battles: MLB

    by Mike Flannery 2h ago

    Coming into the season this wasn’t expected to be a battle with veteran MLB D.J. Williams signed to another 1-yr contract. Williams started last season as the Bears MLB and played pretty well the first four weeks of the season (1.7 grade) before a pectoral injury affected his play and ultimately ended his season after week 6. There was some competition last preseason from rookie 2nd round pick Jon Bostic, but Bostic got his chance when Williams went down and proved that he wasn’t ready (-14.7).
    What most fans forget is that young players usually make their biggest leap between their 1st and 2nd year and based on how Bostic has looked this off-season he is ready to compete for the starting position. DC Mel Tucker has simplified the MLB responsibilities this year as he puts his stamp on the Bears defensive scheme. Bostic has shined so far in camp, but it’s early still and the pads aren’t on yet. Here is a breakdown of the Bears top two options at MLB:
    DJ Williams:
    A 10-year veteran who played most of his career for the Broncos and started all but 6 games over his first 9 seasons in Denver. Williams had a couple of 100+ tackle seasons including 141 in 2007, which was 2nd in the NFL. In 2012 Williams suffered the first serious injury of his NFL career and got in some off-field trouble (DUI) while sidelined. The combination of his injury, off-field issues, his cap number and a new coaching staff gave the Broncos enough reason to cut Williams loose after 9 solid years as a starting linebacker. The Bears brought him on for a reasonable 1-yr deal and he was a solid presence in the middle of the field before a pectoral injury. He’s not young anymore (32) but he has been a solid player in the league for a long time and appeared to still have some burst last year. Besides experience his other unique trait is the ability to blitz effectively up the middle. Williams had 2 sacks in his 4 starts last year and showed excellent timing on blitzes.
    More From 2014 Position Battles

    The Bears will be integrating plenty of new pieces into their defensive starting lineup this year and with possibly as many as 6 new starters on that side of the ball it makes sense to have a veteran presence in the middle of the defense. Lance Briggs will be around to handle the play calls, but with so many new faces an experienced vet like Williams has value in the middle. Williams struggled his last two games in 2013 but he was fighting through an injury and played well the first 4 weeks when healthy. The Bears need to fix their defense from last year and a solid player like Williams could provide some consistency in the middle and help whichever inexperienced option (McClellin or Greene) is starting on his right at SLB.
    Jon Bostic:
    Bostic started out with a bang his rookie season; He had a monster hit on Chargers receiver Mike Willie (above) and a pick-6 in his next preseason game. He was so impressive in the preseason that many fans were calling for him to start the season as the Bears 1st string MLB. The coaching staff made the right decision to start the veteran Williams because when Bostic did get a chance to play after Williams’ injury, he proved that he wasn’t quite ready for the starting job. In his defense, he didn’t have much of a chance to succeed playing behind the worst DTs in the NFL. Due to a rash of injuries the Bears were bringing guys in off the street to man the middle of the line, arguably the most important position in the Bears scheme. Bostic really struggled in run defense (-14), but with the milquetoast DTs he had in front of him, I’m not sure anyone would have had success. He was consistently smothered by interior O-lineman and had trouble shedding blocks and finding the football. The rest of Bostic’s game was pretty solid for a rookie. He showed some inexperience in coverage, but improved as the season went on and actually finished with a positive coverage grade for the season (1.5). I am intrigued to see what Bostic can do with a better interior D-line keeping blockers off of him because he looked like an explosive play-maker playing behind a healthy Paea & Melton in the preseason.
    DC Mel Tucker has also simplified the responsibilities of the MLB position and it is allowing Bostic to use his instincts and not over think his job. With defensive captain Lance Briggs healthy and back in the lineup, Bostic doesn’t have to worry about calling the plays or calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, he can just do his job and use his elite athleticism to make plays. Bostic has drawn rave reviews so far in OTAs and with actual NFL talent in front of him, a year of experience under his belt, and a defensive scheme that plays to his strengths… Bostic could have a break out season.
    Projected Winner: Jon Bostic
    [​IMG]
    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
    DJ Williams has missed 19 games with injuries over the last two seasons, so the odds of him staying healthy over the course of a season playing starter minutes at 32 years old are slim. If Bostic is going to end up as the starter post Williams injury, they might as well speed up his development by putting him in the lineup week 1. Bostic has shown enough to at least be in consideration as the Bears future MLB, so why wait? Few MLBs would have been able to succeed last year playing behind Landon Cohen, Zach Minter, and some of the other bums the Bears had at DT before the Ratliff signing late in the season. Bostic showed potential in coverage and as a pass rusher, but his strength in college was stopping the run. With a respectable D-line in front of him, I think we’ll see the explosive play-maker we saw glimpses of last preseason. Williams is a solid and safe option, but if the Bears want to get back to being a dominant defense, they need their best athletes with the most upside on the field and at MLB that is Bostic.
  2. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    I agree with the above and hope to see Bostic win the starting job. He got some good experience last year with a poor Dline. I am excited to see what he can do with a solid Dline in front of him
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  3. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Nice work up on both players. The God's honest truth is that we can probably do well with either one of them starting but in September at least with a couple of really crucial games I'm opting for still playing DWill provided he comes through camp and preseason at 100%. The experience he brings is probably worth it.

    I think Bostic may actually get the nod at SLB and they'll use McClellin more as package player for now. I think it may be better to let him focus on penetration and rushing to begin with than to load him down with all of it including coverage responsibilities too. Besides as it stands Bostic is the better coverage LB and McClellin the better blitzer.

    The other issue that comes to mind is that if we start Bostic in the middle that leaves two relatively inexperienced LB (Bostic and McClellin) playing as every down guys. McClellin played somewhat like a LB at times at BSU but as far as the NFL goes he's still a rookie LB with a lot to learn. Having Bostic start at SLB and then shifting him into coverage as a MLB in place of DWill might make more sense.

    Guess we'll have to see how it all breaks down after camp and a couple of preseason games but they'll all get some playing time once the season starts.
  4. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    Good p0ints, not sure how much that rookie designation applies to McC but a good point. I think a lot of the Rookie thing is adjusting to the speed and skill level around them. McC has adjusted to this already. It is a new position though and I am sure there is a learning curve. Hopefully the OTA's, mini-camp, and pre-season will expedite the curve.
    DJ has experience but not the speed of Bostic so should be interesting. Briggs is slowed down a step to which may be a reason to have Bostic and McC on the field as they both have good speed to chase down a running QB like the niners have. Definetely will be a position to watch through camp and the preseason.
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  5. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    That's the part he has to learn. He has the speed and he has the athleticism but even at BSU he was never used as a traditional SLB or even as a traditional 4-3 DE. He was a guy they moved around to keep the opposition off balance and blockers off him so he could penetrate and make plays. TFL and sacks and pressures preferably.

    That much he knows how to do so it they allow him to have that same freedom I think he'll begin to adapt just fine. But if they throw coverage stuff at him or play him like we did with Roach where his job wasn't to penetrate but to help set an edge and turn the play back into Briggs and Urlacher then once again it seems to me like we're misusing him.

    I agree with you that having the speed both Bostic and McClellin have is a huge advantage but only if it gets to the right place at the right time. Both ran themselves out of plays at time last year and Tucker made a note of that at least with Bostic. They're asking these guys to square up and read the keys before just talking off on the run and Bostic says he's a lot more comfortable so that helps.

    As for McClellin, he has hasn't said much of anything except that he wants to be trusted by his teammates to get his job done so if I'm coaching him I want to make sure he does one or two things extremely well as opposes to six things not so well.
  6. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    Shea McClellin – OLB
    Naturally after his two years of failure at defensive end, Chicago Bears fans are skeptical about Shea McClellin as a player. Already a “draft bust” label is floating around. Coaches and even GM Phil Emery have said such an idea is far too premature, since the organization has wanted to see if the former 1st round pick can make a switch to linebacker, where scouts initially pegged him two years ago. Indeed McClellin flashed the speed, lateral agility and size for the position. So is it too farfetched?
    In truth McClellin is still only 24-years old. He has enough time to make the transition, and his college game film showed he can play it. Not only does he have the skill to track down ball carriers and play coverage, but it’s his pass rush ability, especially blitzing that will likely win him the strong side job. At that point he will be out to prove he is not the bust everyone thinks he is.


    Interesting, I will post the whole article separate. He may have more coverage skills then you give him credit for.

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