Everyday it seems like a new story is coming out of training camp regarding the Bears first round pick, Shea McClellin. We have heard plenty of the negatives about McClellin, but the last few practices have been proof that patience will be key with the rookie.
Coming in to the draft this offseason, almost every NFL scout had McClellin pegged as a perfect fit for a 3-4 outside linebacker. McClellin’s great speed and prior experience in a similar role had 3-4 defensive teams looking to draft McClellin in the later part of the first round. The Bears took a risk with McClellin at the 19th pick, but Phil Emery has been adamant that McClellin is exactly who they wanted.
McClellin has immediately been put under the microscope in his first training camp. Reports from training camp relayed snap by snap deficiencies of McClellin in various drills and team activities. McClellin has always been known as a speed rusher, but has struggled to find his way past offensive lineman. In the beginning of camp McClellin struggled against marginal talent like undrafted free agent James Brown and former starting left tackle Chris Williams in one-on-one drills.
As camp has continued to progress, McClellin has slowly been starting to put the pieces together. In practice last Thursday, McClellin had a nice interception of backup quarterback Jason Campbell’s pass and was praised for his spin move he put on Chris Williams at practice on Monday.
The adjustment from being a blitzing outside linebacker to guy who has to play with his hand on the ground every play will take some time to get used to, but McClellin’s speed alone will help him adjust to the game quicker. He will need to put emphasis on improving his hand technique and will have to learn how to disengage from his blocker.
The Bears seem content with bringing McClellin along and possibly only using him situationally, much like they did with Mark Anderson in 2006. Many Bears fans would argue that if you are going to take a guy like McClellin in the first round, he should be a starter. I do not completely disagree with that, but you have to decide which situations offer him the best chance to succeed. Speed is the name of McClellin’s game and if put into the obvious passing situations as a pass rusher, he is given a better opportunity to succeed than if he was put in as a starter from day one.
The Bears will be patient with McClellin and not expect too much out of him too early. His snaps will likely increase week to week during the regular season if he can prove that he can be more than just a situational pass rusher, but until then, the Bears and their fans will need a little patience.
Matt Eurich is a contributor to Bearsbacker.com. Follow Bears Backer on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute news about the Bears. Also, check out Matt’s work on Bleacherreport.com and follow him on Twitter @MattEurich.