Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has only one starting linbeacker returning from last season. But after two days of rookie minicamp, the veteran coach also knows he's get two young linebackers who can play.
Rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene may not be starters come Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the potential is there. Just ask Tucker.
"I like them so far," Tucker said Saturday at the Walter Payton Center after the second day of rookie minicamp. "So far so good."
Lance Briggs, as everyone knows, is the only starter returning at linebacker. But the Bears signed veterans D.J. Williams and James Anderson. Briggs will handle the calls, while Williams is projected to replace Brian Urlacher in middle. Anderson will be the Bears' strong-side linebacker.
Bostic and Greene will push for playing time, but both are eager to learn from Briggs, Williams and Anderson.
"It's going to be very competitive across the board on the defense," Tucker said. "I tell those guys every day, 'Compete to stay, compete to play.' It'll be like steel sharpening steel, both sides of the ball and within the defense."
Bostic, a second-round pick, has been handling the defensive calls at rookie camp. He did the same at Florida.
"He's a smart guy, take-control guy," Tucker said. "He's very comfortable making the calls and controlling the huddle. Those are all positives."
Bostic is seen as the eventual replacement for Urlacher, but is behind Williams right now on the depth chart. Would Tucker consider starting a rookie at middle linebacker?
"It's a case-by-case deal [and] you just have to wait and see," Tucker said. "Our job is to get the best players on the field. We'll see how it works out but you never want to paint a guy in a box. It's an open competition across the board in our system and we're not going to predetermine what a guy can or can't do, so we'll see."
Tucker called Bostic and Greene, a fourth-round pick, both very "instinctive" players.
"They're smart, they're athletic, good work ethic and they just want to earn the respect of their teammates and coaches right now," Tucker said. "They've been good in the classroom and good on the field so we'll just take it one day at a time with them."