Bears rookie LB Khaseem Greene is square in the crosshairs
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter November 1, 2013 10:40PM
Khaseem Greene, Adam Jones
Updated: December 3, 2013 6:13AM
Khaseem Greene says he learns quickly and he learns well. We’ll soon find out.
The Bears rookie linebacker is expected to get his first NFL start against the Green Bay Packers on Monday night. Facing a red-hot Aaron Rodgers and the Packers with the strongest running game they’ve had in years at Lambeau Field on the national stage of “Monday Night Football” would be daunting for Lance Briggs or Brian Urlacher. For a rookie who has played one snap on defense and will be making his first NFL start, it’s asking for trouble.
‘‘I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do,’’ said Greene, a fourth-round draft pick from Rutgers. ‘‘Yeah, I’ve only played one snap. But I’ve been practicing and with the team [since June]. It’s more or less about this defense and not about an opponent on game day.’’
But even that presents a challenge for Greene. The Bears’ defense is 27th in the NFL in total yards, 29th in points allowed, 32nd in yards allowed per pass play and 31st in sacks per pass attempt after allowing 499 yards and 38 points in a 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins on Oct. 20 in Landover, Md.
It might be easier to slip Greene into the lineup if the Bears were at full strength — with defensive end Julius Peppers at his best, linebacker Briggs and defensive tackle Henry Melton starting and cornerback Charles Tillman healthy. But Peppers is struggling through a difficult season, Briggs and Melton are injured and Tillman is questionable with a knee injury.
Instead of playing next to a seven-time Pro Bowl player in Briggs, Greene will be starting next to fellow rookie Jon Bostic, who will be making his second NFL start.
‘‘We’re not really worried about inexperience. It’s next man up,’’ Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. ‘‘Guys have a role to play. Guys know that’s expected. It’s our job to get them ready to play.’’
Bostic and Greene might eventually become stalwarts. But Monday night against Rodgers and the Packers? That might be expecting too much too soon. Even the best rookies learn from their mistakes. But they’ve got to make them first.
‘‘I feel good about what we’ve done so far in preparation,’’ Tucker said. ‘‘We’re not worried about experience or inexperience.’’
Bostic at least spent the entire preseason with the first-team defense. Greene played in the preseason but didn’t get the prime-time experience that Bostic did. His learning curve figures to be steeper.
‘‘Every game I got better [in the preseason], I progressed,’’ Greene said. ‘‘You’re going to make mistakes. But it’s how you react to them. Do you make the same mistake twice? Can you adjust on the fly? Those are the types of things that determine what type of player you’ll eventually be.’’
Greene, who was the Big East defensive player of the year in 2011 and 2012, when he had a combined 277 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and eight forced fumbles, responded enthusiastically when asked if he learned from his mistakes in the preseason.
‘‘The first game in Carolina I missed a couple of [plays] setting the edges,’’ he said, ‘‘and throughout the rest of the preseason that was something that didn’t bother me at all. I was conscious of setting the edge when I had to set the edge and that’s what I ended up doing.’’