First-round rookie DE Shea McClellin looks stronger than he did coming out of Boise State, and he’s maintained his speed throughout the first week of camp.
The Bears drafted McClellin—initially projected as an outside linebacker—to Chicago to play defensive end in their 4-3 Tampa-2 defensive scheme, and they’re asking him to do something they struggled to do consistently last year: get after the quarterback.
“He’s going to earn his money based on what he does rushing the passer,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “He’s got a long ways to go.”
McClellin struggled during pass rush drills in camp on Sunday and couldn’t get by undrafted free agent tackle James Brown.
The Bears just kept working him.
McClellin got reps all day and with every team straight down the roster. He looked fast and relentless, but got tangled up frequently.
Toward the end of the day, against the final team offense, he was able to get to rookie QB Matt Blanchard on at least two occasions.
“I’m just trying to get better every day and work on things that coach Marinelli wants me to work on,” McClellin said after practice. “I just have a mentality of never quitting and that’s just what I try to do.”
Lovie Smith said the Bears are pleased with what they’ve seen out of him so far, but he wouldn’t project McClellin pushing Israel Idonije for a spot.
What is most likely to happen at this point would be for Idonije to be the starting DE opposite Julius Peppers on the depth chart. McClellin would likely slide in on pass rushing downs as needed.
Some of the Bears other DEs surprised (in a good way) on Sunday. Thaddeus Gibson performed well in drills and Corey Wootton stepped up in 11-on-11s.
The Bears were 17th in the League last season in sacks with just 34. Their defense is predicated on getting to the quarterback, and it’s likely that their success as a unit—but in the secondary in particular—will hinge on their ability to do just that.
“Today my pass-rushing wasn’t that good, so I was kind of disappointed,” McClellin said. “You know, I’m kind of hard on myself, so I’ve got to do better than that.”
Bears players have the day off today.