Shea McClellin getting ‘more comfortable’ at linebacker
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter August 21, 2014 10:00PM
Updated: September 23, 2014 6:34AM
SEATTLE — When it comes to turning Shea McClellin into an NFL-worthy linebacker after two seasons as a hand-in-the-dirt end, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker offers a simple solution.
“Just keep playing,” Tucker said.
“Just keep playing,” Tucker said. “I thought he took a step forward in this last game [against the Jacksonville Jaguars]. That was just a week. He’s got a passion for the game. He’s talented. He’s tough.”
It’s apparent that McClellin still is learning the nuances of the position, and the Bears’ exhibition Friday against the Seattle Seahawks could be quite a learning experience. But the progress he showed against the Jaguars after struggling a week earlier against the Philadelphia Eagles was encouraging.
McClellin went from missing tackles to making four. Pro Football Focus, which has been critical of him, even gave him the second positive rating of his career — including the preseason — for his efforts.
“I’m my own worst critic,” McClellin said. “It takes time, adjusting to a new position that I haven’t played for a while. You just have to keep grinding, working.”
McClellin says that linebacker feels more natural, that he benefits from playing in space and not having to immediately engage blockers.
But more freedom also means more reads and keys. It means looking in the right places and reacting correctly with the athletic ability that made him a first-round pick.
“You have to be able to do it all at the linebacker spot,” Tucker said. “That’s one of the key components, to be able to key and diagnose quickly run [or] pass.”
And that’s where McClellin stands to benefit most during preseason play.
“I’m getting used to seeing things, the reads,” he said. “I’m still trying to get my eyes right and work on that. It’s just getting the keys down on play-action passes and those kind of things.”
McClellin has worked extensively at strong-side linebacker in the Bears’ No. 1 base defense, but he’s also part of the second nickel package and will be used as a blitzer.
The Bears also have experimented with a package in which McClellin, as a linebacker, rushes from outside the defensive end.
“I definitely like that,” he said. “It’s one of my strengths. We’ll continue to do that and see where it goes.”
Through it all, McClellin said he reminds himself to be patient.
“There’s things you do well and certain things you need to work on,” he said. “But I feel a lot more comfortable.”