As the Chicago Bears get prepared for their upcoming matchup with the Washington Redskins on Sunday, one of the more intriguing matchups that has developed is the one between Washington QB Robert Griffin III and newly minted Bears middle linebacker Jon Bostic, who is taking over for the injured DJ Williams at the position.
There are myriad reasons why Griffin is a particularly interesting first matchup for Bostic, but the main one is the quarterback’s excellent quickness and elusive running style. During the season’s early weeks, Griffin didn’t appear to be at full speed, and there were plenty of whispers that he had lost a step. Looking at game film from the ‘Skins game last week against the Dallas Cowboys though, it becomes clear that Griffin has at least gotten close to, if not matched, his skillset from before the ligament tear that ended his season in January.
During that Cowboys game, Dallas tried to give him as many looks up front as possible, and were really able to get the pocket moving in towards him on several occasions. Rather than panic and bolt from the backfield, Griffin showed excellent footwork in the pocket, and only ran as a last resort. When he did run though, he provided an interesting wrinkle that Bostic and company are going to have to keep an eye on.
One play in particular stands out in that regard. On a third down play in the red zone towards the end of the first quarter, Griffin took off running when a seam opened up in the middle of the field.
Their center Will Montgomery ended up with no one to block because of the fact that the Cowboys dropped eight men into coverage, and so he went out as a lead blocker for Griffin. As the quarterback approached the goal line, the only thing standing between him and a touchdown was Dallas middle linebacker Sean Lee. Montgomery tried to block him low, but Lee was able to hop backwards to avoid the block, and stayed squared up to Griffin, tackling him just shy of the goal line and forcing Washington to settle for a field goal.
It was an athletic play by Lee, and it’s one that Bostic is definitely capable of making. The question is whether or not he will have the awareness necessary to make a play like that in his first career start, and whether he will have the recognition necessary to see a draw play in a key situation. The fact that he struggled against the run in the preseason isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring in that regard, but it’s hard to judge a player based solely on those performances rather than regular season tilts.
The other area that Bostic will be tested in by Griffin is in play action. On several occasions against the Cowboys, the Redskins ran play-action passes to perfection, with Alfred Morris serving as an excellent decoy and Griffin displaying the kind of quick passes that quarterbacks like Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford have used to great effect against the Bears this season.
Bostic’s ability to sniff out those kinds of plays will be extra critical because of the struggles of the Bears’ secondary lately. Their safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright haven’t been that impressive, coming in late on coverages and blowing assignments too frequently, and the injury woes of Charles Tillman haven’t helped things either. Add in a mobile quarterback and a guy capable of rushing for big yardage, and there is a lot that Bostic is going to have to be responsible for in his first start as a Bear, and the challenge is going to be bigger than most people realize.