- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 28, 2019

RICHMOND — Jon Bostic loves to talk about Lance Briggs.

The Chicago Bears drafted Bostic in 2013, so as a rookie, his first NFL linebacker room included the likes of Briggs, D.J. Williams and James Anderson. But Bostic speaks of the seven-time Pro Bowler the highest: It was Briggs who would tell Bostic “you’re wrong” every practice in an effort to teach him what’s right, and Briggs who made him learn how to call the defense’s plays as a rookie.

“There’s a lot of tricks that I’ve learned throughout the years,” Bostic said. “With the league getting as young as it’s gotten, you don’t have those veterans to be able to teach you. … I was able to learn a lot — a lot of things that Lance was able to teach me.”

The Redskins’ new inside linebacker — whether by voracious studying, a deep bank of football knowledge or some combination of the two — was calling plays for the defense in 11-on-11 drills by Day 1 of training camp, only two months after signing late in the spring.

Under new Redskins linebackers coach Rob Ryan, Bostic, 28, and second-year Redskin Shaun Dion Hamilton are taking the first-team snaps in Washington’s base 3-4. With Mason Foster out of the picture after the team released him last week, Bostic is the favorite to assume the pivotal middle inside linebacker role for Washington this season.



Hardly the smoothest NFL career, Bostic is already on his sixth team in seven years. He was traded twice and injuries kept him from even seeing the field for the Detroit Lions. But in the past two seasons, he started 14 games apiece for the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers, putting up 97 tackles in 2017 and 73 last year.

But Pittsburgh cut Bostic after the draft in April, putting him on the market during an awkward part of the NFL calendar. The Redskins brought him in because Reuben Foster tore his ACL on the third play of OTAs.

“From day one, we sensed (Bostic) was a smart guy. He’s a great player,” Quinton Dunbar said. “I don’t know why he’s lingering around the league like that.”

The depth chart at inside linebacker has changed drastically since that week in May. While the Mason Foster release certainly opened up a starting opportunity for Bostic, he would rather not view it like that.

“You know, Mason made a lot of plays in this league,” Bostic said. “He’s made a lot of plays here last couple years. I wasn’t here, I can’t speak on it. All I can say is what I’ve seen on film, he’s a great player. I watched him when he was down in Tampa Bay. We ran the Tampa 2 defense, they were running Tampa 2 as well.”

“Smart” is the word most associated with Bostic’s skill set. Bostic himself said he treats football like a chess match. But according to coach Jay Gruden, “being smart” is not the whole picture.

“There’s a lot of book-smart or ‘can pick things up on a chalkboard’ smart players,” Gruden said. “But instinctual players, that’s a different ball game, and so far he has shown he’s got great instincts, when to fall back, when to hit the hole. He runs with great angles to the football on screens. He’s been excellent so far.”

For Bostic, the mental side of football is not just about knowing the playbook or reading an offense, but also ensuring the unit around him is clicking as one.

“I gotta know how you think, I gotta know how you think, I gotta know how you think,” he said, pointing at three different reporters around him as if they were teammates. “A lot of times, if I’m talking on the field, a lot of people may see me talking but really I’m talking to you, because I know it may take a second for this to click. You, I might not have to say anything to.”

Bostic added that he sees a lot of himself in Hamilton, the 2018 sixth-rounder who impressed the staff as a rookie and has built expectations for another step forward in his second year.

Luckily for Hamilton, this moment in Bostic’s career appears to be a pivot-point for him to move from the understudy to the “Lance Briggs role” for Washington’s young linebacker room.

“These (tips and advice) are the things I’m able to start passing down to these young guys and whatnot,” Bostic said, “and they need to keep passing down for years coming on.”

 

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