By Adam Hoge-
CHARLOTTE (CBS) — Some good, some bad. That’s a typical start for a promising rookie.
And that’s exactly what was seen from Bears’ second-round draft pick Jon Bostic in Friday’s 24-17 preseason opening loss to the Panthers.
On Carolina’s first offensive play from scrimmage, Bostic over-pursued to his right and paid for it. Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams went right by him for a six-yard gain.
Then on the next Panthers’ series, Bostic was late seeing the crossing route from Brandon LaFell and ended up chasing the receiver into the end zone, getting a good look at the first touchdown of the night. LaFell was not his man on the play — Bostic was actually spying Panthers quarterback Cam Newton — but the linebacker acknowledged he could have picked the receiver up if he had seen him earlier.
“That’s another play I could have helped out. I want to say it was a pick route that they ran and I was the spy on that play and I could have taken over that man,” Bostic said. “It was the first preseason game and I’ve got a lot of stuff I’ve gotta learn.”
Of course, the rookie more than made up for it on the next Panthers’ series, when he sat in the Bears’ Cover-1, read Cam Newton perfectly and made a tremendous catch before returning the interception to the end zone for a touchdown. Once again, his assignment was to spy the quarterback.
“I was reading Cam’s front shoulder, but really it was the blocking that kind of got me there,” the linebacker said.
And just like that in the first quarter, Bears fans saw both the extreme promise and frustrating inexperience of their prized rookie linebacker. Of course, he paid for his own inexperience by forgetting to keep the ball from his pick-6 — the ultimate rookie mistake.
“I mean, it probably is,” Bostic said. “It’s something I will definitely remember.”
Hester Sits Out On Punts
When the Panthers’ punting unit took the field for the first time Friday night, there was an odd sighting on the Bears’ side of the football.
The undrafted rookie from Iowa State took the punt returns instead of Devin Hester, but don’t read too much into it. Head coach Marc Trestman acknowledged that Hester was being preserved a little bit and he still was used in the kick return game.
“He’s getting good work in practice,” Trestman said. “We’re doing our returns at almost full speed, getting everyone up and we’ll get a good look at him and how explosive he really is and still is.”
Hester brought his only kick return of the night deep out of the end zone, but only got to the 13 yard line. Still, Trestman thought Hester was only one guy away from breaking it all the way for a touchdown.
While Jay Cutler was able to complete 6-of-7 passes following his opening interception, the Bears’ second team was sloppy as Josh McCown was only able to complete 3-of-8 passes on the night. Some of it was the quarterback’s fault, but McCown also didn’t have much time to throw the ball and didn’t get much help from his receivers.
On one play, McCown was sacked while James Brown was also called for holding, which of course was declined. On another, McCown threw a great ball to Fendi Onobun in the corner of the end zone and the tight end dropped it. On the very next play, McCown completed a short pass to Armando Allen, who then fumbled the ball and the Panthers recovered.
“We didn’t convert in the red zone,” Trestman said. “We had a chance to get that one — that touchdown we had a guy open and we didn’t convert. We had some plays called back offensively with our second and third group. So it was good learning from that standpoint.”
Holes Open In Defense
The backups on defense had just as many problems as the offense. There were holes open in the Bears’ zone-scheme and while Panthers’ backup quarterback Derek Anderson missed a lot of them, he also was able to convert some big plays on the Bears’ secondary.
With a thin defensive line and not much depth in the secondary either, Friday night was an indication of how things might go on defense if injuries take their toll.
“There were a lot of things we could do better,” linebacker Lance Briggs said. “There were some things we did well. When we put on the tape, we’ll all evaluate the things to improve on.”
On the plus side, the Bears did force four takeaways on the night, which this defense will continue to preach under new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
Defensive Tackle Henry Melton left the game early with a concussion and will be following league protocol over the next few days… Longsnapper Patrick Mannelly suffered a rib injury and was replaced by linebacker James Anderson who performed well in the role… Backup fullback Harvey Unga also left the game with a rib injury… Brandon Marshall (coach’s decision), Julius Peppers (coach’s decision), D.J. Williams (calf), Jonathan Scott (knee), Earl Bennett (concussion), Kyle Adams (hamstring), Jamaal Anderson (knee) and Corey Wootton (calf) all sat out Friday’s game.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.