Everyday it seems like there is a new story coming out of training camp regarding the Bears first-round pick, Shea McClellin. We have heard plenty of the negatives regarding McClellin, but the last few practices have been proof that patience will be key with the young rookie.
Coming into the draft, 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 teams running a 3-4 defense looking to draft McClellin in the later portion of the first round.
The Bears took a risk by taking McClellin with the 19th pick, but GM Phil Emery has been adamant that McClellin is exactly whom they wanted.
McClellin has immediately been put under the microscope in his first training camp.
Reports coming out of camp chronicle McClellin's snap-by-snap deficiencies in various drills and team activities. McClellin has always been known as a speed rusher but has struggled to find his way past offensive linemen. The beginning of camp saw McClellin struggling in one-on-one drills against marginal talent like undrafted free agent James Brown and former starting left tackle Chris Williams.
As camp has progressed, McClellin has been starting to put the pieces together. In practice last Thursday, he had a nice pickoff of a Jason Campbell pass and was praised Monday for a spin move he put on Chris Williams.
The adjustment from being a blitzing outside linebacker to guy who has to play with his hand on the ground will take some getting used to, but McClellin’s speed alone will help him adjust to the game more quickly. He will need to put an emphasis on improving his hand technique and learning how to disengage from his blocker.
The Bears seem content with bringing McClellin along slowly and possibly using him only in obvious passing situations, much like they did with Mark Anderson in 2006.
Many Bear 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 determine which situations offer him the best chance to succeed. Speed is the name of McClellin’s game, and if put into 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 are going to be patient with McClellin and not expect too much out of him 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 to show a little patience.