We've officially completed one week of Chicago Bears training camp, and the news about Shea McClellin has not been great. He has been consistently getting beaten by the offensive line, especially in the one-on-one drills. His low point of the week was probably losing out to undrafted rookie James Brown from Troy.
McClellin knows that he has to step up. Via the Chicago Sun-Times:
“[Sunday], my pass rushing wasn’t very good, so I was kind of disappointed. I’m pretty hard on myself, so I’ve got to do better than that."
Yesterday, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said that McClellin was being too hard on himself. Via the Chicago Tribune:
"He has the tools and he has the mental toughness to him, but he's extremely hard on himself. And it's hard to rush when you're hard on yourself. You just have to let it go. He's kind of thinking a little bit right now instead of just going. And every day, that will get better. The spotlight is on him and all those things. He just has to play ball, have fun and smile."
This is not exactly the statement that Chicago fans were looking for about this year's top draft choice. The expectations on McClellin have been that he'll start opposite Julius Peppers on the defensive line, but increasingly it appears that McClellin will be more of a situation pass-rusher when the regular season begins.
Why That's Not Such a Bad Thing
Mark Anderson had a similar role for the Bears back in 2006. With Tommie Harris causing problems up the middle, Anderson tallied 12.5 sacks despite playing on the second team behind Alex Brown, Israel Idonije and Adewale Ogunleye at defensive end. If McClellin only came in on passing downs, he could still have a very solid season for the Bears.
It's also important to note that it's still very early in the preseason. It's way too early for people to be jumping off of McClellin's bandwagon. Chicago's first preseason game isn't until August 9th. Until we see McClellin in pads lined up against opposing defenses, we should't be shocked by anything that comes out of camp.
What Won't Happen
Now that we have seen McClellin in a week of training-camp practice, a couple things are pretty clear.
First, he's going to be playing defensive end and rushing the passer in a standard 4-3 defense. Some fans have speculated that he could move back to linebacker or the Bears might switch to a 3-4 with McClellin and Peppers moving to outside linebacker. Based on everything that we have seen, that isn't going to happen.
The only way that Chicago will switch to a 3-4 defense is if Lovie Smith is no longer their coach. As for switching to middle linebacker, it was Nick Roach who replaced Brian Urlacher in practice, not McClellin.
There is still hope for Bears fans that McClellin can be an impact rookie this season. It just may not be in the same manner that we initially thought it would be.