Shea McClellin will likely move to linebacker
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter January 2, 2014 9:13PM
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The Bears’ two top decision-makers finally said publicly Thursday what statistics have borne out for two years: The Shea McClellin experiment isn’t working.
The confession was notable beyond McClellin’s 6½ sacks over two seasons or his inability to consistently play the run.
It means he’s not a fit at defensive end in the 4-3 scheme, which could be switched to a 3-4 this offseason. McClellin figures to move to linebacker, even if the Bears keep playing four down linemen.
More than anything, it was an admission from general manager Phil Emery that his first draft pick, chosen at No. 19 in 2012, has been a poor fit.
Most saw McClellin as an ideal 3-4 linebacker out of Boise State.
“Putting him at defensive end, that’s on me,” Emery said, “not giving him the ultimate opportunity to succeed.”
Emery said the Bears’ pass-rushing unit was better with McClellin on the field.
“Sacks are king,” Emery said. “And Shea did not have enough of those.”
McClellin, who increasingly rushed the passer from a two-point stance as the season wore on, won’t be the sole impetus to switch to a 3-4.
“It just sounds easier because there’s four linebackers and there’s two other potential pass rushers involved,” coach Marc Trestman said, “but it doesn’t have to be.”
McClellin said this week that if the Bears want him to stand up and rush from a two-point stance, “I’m comfortable doing that.”
He was drafted to be “a rotational, complementary pass rusher,” Emery said. Because of the poor depth this season, he played 72 percent of the downs when healthy.
Emery intended to use him the way former coach Lovie Smith played nickel pass rushers — anywhere from 40 to 62 percent of the downs.
“The whole idea and thought behind Shea is,” Emery said, “the high-end athleticism he has and his speed to handle the quarterbacks that we face and the mobility that they have.”
He compared McClellin’s versatility, body type and athleticism to the Patriots’ Rob Ninkovich, the Jaguars’ Jason Babin and the Bills’ Jerry Hughes, who found success after parting with the teams that drafted them.
“What I want for Shea is for it not to take that long,” Emery said. “For us to find that role. Not for the Patriots or the Bills or the Jaguars or the Eagles to find those roles, but for us.”