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McClellin to return vs. Rams after injury halted his progress

Updated: November 20, 2013 9:36PM



It was the breakout, feel-good game second-year defensive end Shea McClellin was yearning for.

And McClellin’s plan was to build off that game — three sacks, including an injury-causing one on quarterback Aaron Rodgers, against the Green Bay Packers on “Monday Night Football” — and finish the season on a high note to silence critics who questioned using a first-round pick on him in 2012.

Leave it to bad luck to change that plan as McClellin injured his right hamstring during drills at practice shortly thereafter.

“It was pretty disappointing,” said McClellin, who sat out against the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens the last two weeks. “Sitting out is terrible. It’s the worst thing. You just want to be out there with the guys, helping out, especially if they’re not doing too good. It’s hard to watch what they’re doing.”

Barring any setbacks this week at practice, McClellin will return Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. He’ll likely start, too, with Corey Wootton moving back to three-technique defensive tackle and nose tackle Stephen Paea likely out because of a nagging turf toe.

“I feel good,” McClellin said. “I feel 100 percent.”

McClellin said he wasn’t doing anything different when he had the three sacks against the Packers and that his approach has never changed.

But something has changed since that victory over the Packers. The Bears’ defense is showing signs of improvement, whether it’s the erratic pass rush taking down opposing quarterbacks, being able to get off the field on third downs or adjusting better late in games.

“We’re working together better, and things are starting to flow,” McClellin said. “We just have to keep going.”

The Rams are in the middle of the pack when it comes to protecting the passer, giving up 24 sacks. Quarterback Kellen Clemens, who’s playing for the injured Sam Bradford, has been sacked nine times in his four starts.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said it was difficult to judge the Bears’ pass rush against the Ravens because of the field conditions.

But “[the Bears are] well-coached, they use real good rush integrity, [are] rarely out of their lanes [and] collapse the pocket very, very quick,” he said.

That praise might be a tad exaggerated, considering the Bears only have 17 sacks, including 31/2 by McClellin.

But McClellin’s return should be a concern for Clemens, especially if the Bears find ways to limit Rams running back Zac Stacy on first and second downs.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said McClellin “did some good things out there” at practice on Wednesday — his first full practice in weeks.

“[I’m] just [trying] to get back into the groove of things,” McClellin said. “After any time off, you get kind of rusty, so it takes a couple of days to get back.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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