Bears linebackers Shea McClellin and Jon Bostic won’t be turning into Mike Singletary and Wilber Marshall overnight, but as their development goes, Thursday’s exhibition game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was encouraging.
‘‘I thought Shea was better this week,’’ coach Marc Trestman said during his introductory comments with reporters Friday. ‘‘I thought he improved on the defensive side of the ball. I thought Bostic played well.’’
Turning the athletic gifts of McClellin, the No. 19 pick in 2012, and Bostic, No. 50 in 2013, into starting, every-down material still requires plenty of work. But their play was an upgrade from the previous week against the Philadelphia Eagles, and that counts in the Bears’ books. Both players even got positive grades from Pro Football Focus, which often has been critical of them.
Bostic came through with a wow play that was similar to the one he made last preseason. On third-and-1 from the Bears’ 27-yard line in the first quarter, he shot a gap, bowled through tackle Luke Joeckel — the second overall pick in 2013 — and tackled running back Toby Gerhart for a four-yard loss.
‘‘It was something I saw on film,’’ said Bostic, who alerted his teammates that a crack-toss play was coming. ‘‘I pretty much just got downhill.’’
His success and comfort could be just a matter of schematics. He said he lined up more at middle linebacker against the Jaguars, which helped with his reads. Against the Eagles, he also played weak-side linebacker.
‘‘I definitely felt more comfortable with [middle linebacker],’’ Bostic said. ‘‘I could play a lot faster. That was my main thing: Just play fast, don’t think and have fun. Last week, I had to play some [weak-side], so I was thinking a little bit more, especially with the [Eagles’] zone-read step. But I played more [middle] this week, and I felt good about it.”
Trestman highlighted Bostic’s physicality, but more still is expected of him. His work at weak-side is a matter of depth.
‘‘He plays middle very well, but we’ve got to be in a position if we lose somebody that he can move into either position, so we’ll continue to do that,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘ ‘Mike’ linebacker is certainly a place that he excels at, and he needs to be able to play the nickel as well.”
As for McClellin, Trestman said his comfort level was noticeable in his second game at strong-side. McClellin, coming off two lackluster seasons at defensive end, was credited with four individual tackles against the Jaguars.
‘‘I talked to [linebackers coach] Reggie [Herring] after the game a week ago, and [that] was his first time playing ‘Sam’ in a real game,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘It’s not Bourbonnais, and it’s not out here at Halas [Hall]. It’s a real football game, and you could see a little more confidence, a little more reactive and natural reactions to making plays [against the Jaguars].
‘‘I thought he got better, and that’s a good sign. We’ve got two more weeks, and I’m hopeful that he’ll continue to make progress.’’
The Bears are counting on it from both players. It’s apparent McClellin and Bostic both will be on the field in some form in Week 1.
‘‘It’s always going to be a learning process,’’ Bostic said. ‘‘We’ve got a lot of stuff that we want to keep working on with where want to strive to be for this defense.’’