Shea McClellin will be moved to linebacker
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter February 20, 2014 9:36PM
Updated: March 22, 2014 6:43AM
INDIANAPOLIS — Shea McClellin’s position has changed, but his boss’ expectations have not.
General manager Phil Emery said Thursday he expects McClellin to compete for a starting job as the team’s strong-side linebacker after two failed seasons as an undersized defensive end.
“He is a perfect candidate to be on the field all downs in some capacity — whether that is blitzing, rushing, playing against the run in run personnel — but he is going to have to compete for his job,” Emery said during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. “He’s going to have to win that job.”
As part of the reclamation, Emery’s first first-round pick will also learn middle linebacker — he played both inside and outside at Boise State — while middle linebacker Jon Bostic studies the outside positions.
Emery praised McClellin’s ability to rush — he called him the team’s best last year — and cover in space. As a strong-side linebacker, McClellin will rush the passer both with four-man fronts ahead of him and, likely, as part of a 3-4 front in nickel situations.
“The guy has got very good hips, very good quickness, very good speed for his position,” Emery said.
At 6-3 and 250 pounds, he’ll be the Bears’ biggest linebacker.
“So that gives him versatility, along with that subset of athleticism and speed,” he said.
According to coach Marc Trestman, new linebackers coach Reggie Herring agreed with the move, finding McClellin possessed “the ability and skill set to be a very good linebacker.’’
If Emery learned a lesson from McClellin’s failed defensive end experiment, it was to make sure his future ones — whom he will scout this week — are longer and heavier.
“It taught me to keep pickin’ guys that have versatility,” he said, “because none of us are going to be perfect.”
The Bears aim to make Bostic more versatile by teaching him to play outside. And they envision adding a middle linebacker via free agency — perhaps veteran D.J. Williams, who ruptured his left pectoral muscle six games into last year after fighting a strained right calf all of camp.
“Saw a guy that has legitimately very good burst,” Emery said of Williams. “Saw a player that has good instincts, gets around the ball and plays with a relentless style.”
The Bears hope they can say the same about McClellin.
It wasn’t going to happen at defensive end, anyway.
“We know one thing in our second level: that Lance Briggs is going to be our [weak-side] linebacker going in,” Trestman said. “Who is going to be our [middle] and our [strong-side linebackers]?
“We are going to move those guys around — and we’ll see where we go in that regard.”